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From «Beowulf» to Caxton

Studies in Medieval Languages and Literature, Texts and Manuscripts


Edited By Tomonori Matsushita, A.V.C. Schmidt and David J. Wallace

Senshu University has hosted many international conferences on medieval English literature – primarily on Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland – as well as in the related fields of Old Germanic, medieval French and Renaissance Italian literature. These international collaborations inform and contribute to the present volume, which addresses the heritage bequeathed to medieval English language and literature by the classical world.
This volume explores the development of medieval English literature in light of contact with Germanic and Old Norse cultures, on the one hand, and Romance languages, on the other. The book includes a comparative study of Beowulf in the Germanic context, discusses aspects of Piers Plowman and its tradition, and offers philological approaches to Chaucer (especially his Troilus and Criseyde). The articles assembled here collectively suggest how the torches of classical learning were carried from continental Europe to illuminate the pages of medieval English literature.


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Helen Barr - 4. The Place of the Poor in ‘the Piers Plowman Tradition’ -79


Helen Barr 4 The Place of the Poor in ‘the Piers Plowman Tradition’ 4.0. Introduction While none of the poems that comprise the core of ‘the Piers Plowman Tradition’ scale the imaginative and theological heights of Piers Plowman, they respond to important issues in Piers, and continue the discussion, often with a precise reprise of the diction of their predecessor.1 In each of Piers’s progeny there is space devoted to the plight of the less fortunate, those who are poor and vulnerable. The poems highlight the exploitation of the poor and the responsibilities of those who are better of f to respect them, and to help them in their need. To what extent is their treatment of the poor precisely indebted to Piers? 4.1. Piers Plowman Time and again, Langland returns to the question of the poor in all ver- sions of his poem. As recent studies have shown, it was clearly an issue that vexed his social and poetic imagination, and answers to how society as a 1 All references to the Piers tradition poems are to The Piers Plowman Tradition. A Critical Edition of Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede, Richard the Redeles, Mum and the Sothsegger and The Crowned King, ed. Helen Barr (London: Everyman, 1993). For discussion of the indebtedeness to Piers, see Helen Barr, Signes and Sothe: Language in the Piers Plowman Tradition (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1994). 80 Helen Barr whole must respond to the plight of the poor are not clear-cut.2 The first version of the...

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