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February 27 , 2009

Reading Piers Plowman


Reading 'Piers Plowman' is an indispensable scholarly guide to a magnificent - and notoriously difficult - medieval poem. With 'Piers Plowman', the fourteenth-century poet William Langland proved that English verse could be at once spiritually electrifying and intellectually rigorous, capable of imagining society in its totality while at the same time exploring heady ideas about language, theology and culture. In her study of Piers Plowman, Emily Steiner explores how Langland's ambitious poetics emerged in dialogue with contemporary ideas; for example, about political counsel and gender, the ethics of poverty, Christian and pagan learning, lordship and servitude, and the long history of Christianity. Lucid and comprehensive, Steiner's study teaches us to stay alert to the poem's stunning effects while still making sense of its literary and historical contexts.

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