Public Piers Plowman Modern Scholarship and Late Medieval English Culture Synopsis
The fourteenth-century alliterative poem Piers Plowman was widely popular in its own day. The number of its surviving manuscripts ranks just below that of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Although the poem has been the subject of some interesting recent critical scholarship, it continues to be marginalized by medievalists and non-medievalists alike. According to C. David Benson, this is because the tendency of modern criticism has been to read Piers as an autobiography mired in the singular intellectual obsessions of its author or as a recondite exploration of theological and political issues. In Public Piers Plowman, Benson returns the poem to the center of late medieval English culture by treating it as a public rather than a personal or elite work. In the process, Benson makes this great poem more accessible, exciting, and necessary to modern readers.
Public Piers Plowman Modern Scholarship and Late Medieval English Culture Press Reviews
C. David Benson's Public Piers Plowman opens Langland's great poem to new readings and broader understanding by placing it both generally and very specifically within many elements of the 'public culture' of late fourteenth-century England. Part Two of this book should continue to yield sustenance to lovers of this poem and its many meanings, most of them, no doubt, yet to be discovered. --Joe Ricke, Sixteenth Century Journal This is a book one reads with gratitude, not only for its clarity of exposition and explication but for its facility in locating significance along the interfaces between Piers Plowman, the late-medieval culture from which it originated, and the long history of readers who have attempted to understand it. --Russell A. Peck, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies As valuable in its learned accuracy as it is provocative in its efforts to critique pursuits of the poem as a spiritual or literary autobiography, Benson's study selectively but successfully limns a 'public' culture where the phenomenon of Piers was at home. --A. Galloway, Choice David Benson tackles the difficult and vital question of Piers Plowman's engagement with its history by getting down to the basics of the text, the circumstances of its production, and the real world from which it emerged. His historical re-envisioning of Piers is exactly what Langland's poem, at this stage in its career, needs. Public Piers Plowman is a major achievement. --Derek Pearsall, Harvard University Benson provides a thoroughly useful, timely, and provocative engagementment with Piers Plowman and its critical tradition. --A. Galloway, Choice