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austinchapman

in libris

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Currently reading

The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. A: Middle Ages
Stephen Greenblatt, Alfred David, James Simpson, M.H. Abrams
Progress: 367/543 pages

William Langland's Piers Plowman

The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. A: Middle Ages - Stephen Greenblatt, Alfred David, James Simpson, M.H. Abrams

Of all the selections in this anthology, Piers Plowman has been the most difficult for me because I struggled to keep my attention on it. It's an account of a dream had by the author about a whole lot of things, from the point of view of a man called Piers, who is a plowman. The whole thing is allegorical, and there were many allegories I didn't quite get, despite the scholarly notes included with this edition. Generally, I'm not a fan of allegories, anyway, so I guess I was predisposed against this text from the start. The most interesting thing was the scholarly introductions, especially on the social and literary context of medieval estates satire, as well as the evolution of some major new interpretations of the Christian faith that were taking shape in the 14th century. For example, while Christ was predominantly a conquering hero in a lot of earlier literature, he is now, in the 14th Century, very often a figure of love and mercy. There is a little bit of both Christs in "Piers Plowman", which makes it at least an interesting reflection of a changing intellectual atmosphere.

 

Next up: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven (28 stories selected by Jonathan Strahan -- it's bound to be good!)