William Langland is one of the most important authors of the middle ages and Piers Plowman, one of the most challenging and complex poems of all time. Written and revised in the last decades of the fourteenth century, Piers Plowman is a dream vision which gives an account of one man’s ardent quest for personal salvation in a world torn apart by social unrest and economic upheaval. Langland’s passionate concern with issues such as social injustice, the use and abuse of learning, church corruption and poverty ensured his poem’s wide and immediate following. It also gained Piers Plowman a later literary reputation for political and religious radicalism which far outstripped the poem’s sentiments at the time of its writing. Taking into account recent critical and historical work on the poem, this study looks at new ways of exploring the poem’s complex allegorical form and argues for the text to be read as a far-reaching critique of the social and sacred models that were the foundation of Langland’s world.
Dr Claire Marshall is Lecturer in English Literature at Birkbeck, University of London where she teaches Medieval English Literature to undergraduate and MA students.
216 × 138 mm
January 12, 2000
Writers and their Work