“A comprehensive and witty guide to understanding Piers Plowman in all its versions and a manifesto for the pure intellectual pleasure to be had from reading the text as it dynamically unfolds in each of the poet’s reworkings.”–Sarah Wood, author of Conscience and the Composition of Piers Plowman
“By innovatively working through all three of the poem’s versions, Calabrese makes Piers Plowman accessible without sacrificing complexity, guiding readers expertly through the poem’s much-debated development.”–Nicole R. Rice, author of Lay Piety and Religious Discipline in Middle English Literature
William Langland’s allegorical poem Piers Plowman has found new critical and pedagogic life in the twenty-first century. Engaging with culture, religion, community, work, and the histories of government and popular revolt, the poem exists in three versions: the earliest, short A text (c. 1367-70), the much longer B text (c. 1377-79), and the later revision, the C text (c. 1382-87). Studies have frequently focused on the B text, leaving a gap in available resources for students of the poem.
An Introduction to Piers Plowman by Michael Calabrese is the first comprehensive introduction to Langland’s masterful work that covers all three iterations, outlining the various changes that occurred between each. It thoroughly explores the versions in parallel study and offers new perspectives and approaches to the poem as an evolving whole.
Useful for individuals reading any version of Piers Plowman, this engaging guide offers a much-needed navigational summary, a chronology of historic events relevant to the poem, biographical information about Langland and his work in context with his contemporaries, and keys to characters and to proper pronunciation. Calabrese’s definitive and refreshingly lively volume allows readers to navigate the three versions of this daunting poem and to contextualize it within the literary history of Western culture.
Michael Calabrese, professor of English at California State University, Los Angeles, is author of Chaucer’s Ovidian Arts of Love.