William Langland’s ‘Kynde Name’: Authorial Signature and Social Identity in Late Fourteenth-Century England.
WL’s signatures – both explicit and occulted (e. g., anagrammatic) -are considered in the context of such topics as the moral and political claims of vernacular culture to embody truth, the improvisation of individual and communal identities, and the de-objectification of the written artifact and the restoration to it of the “authenticating presence that had been drained from it by the documentary and administrative culture.” The third authorial signature in the A text, A.9.61-65, diacritically signals a particular kind of required reading with particular claims to authority. The signatures of the B and C texts further problematize the process, often by calling forth apologiae of the subject’s inferiority and reexaminations of his position. The Lond of Longyng is itself an authorial signature that situates the audience in the allegorical narrative in Will’s position. C-text signatures (e.g., C.5.1-108) go beyond earlier signatures that attempt to account for WL’s project as spiritual history, by now attempting to justify it as social production. WL’s self-definition is explored in relation to the radical reconstructions of the self and realignment of communal identity evidenced in the adopted pseudonyms of the rebels of 1381.
Literary Practice and Social Change in Britain, 1380-1530, ed. Lee Patterson. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1990. 15-82.