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'Truthe is the beste'

A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt


Edited By Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan

The thirteen essays in this book, presented in honour of Dr A.V.C. (Carl) Schmidt, are designed to reflect the range of his interests. Dr Schmidt, who was a Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford from 1972 until his retirement in 2011, is best known for his comprehensive four-text edition of Piers Plowman, the fruit of a lifetime’s work on that text. He has also made a major contribution to the study of Chaucer and the medieval English contemplatives, and these authors also find a place in this collection. The essays presented here are intended to build upon the legacy of Carl Schmidt’s exemplary scholarship.
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Romance Patterns of Naming in Piers Plowman


← 36 | 37 → HELEN COOPER

A muche man, as me thouȝte, lik to myselue,

Cam and called me by my kynde name.

—LANGLAND, Piers Plowman, B VIII.70–11

With the major exception of Will, the act of naming has not been thought of as particularly significant in Piers Plowman. Most names are just what they say they are. They may be the names of personifications, such as Wit or Fortune; of historical or biblical characters, such as Trajan or Isaiah; type names, such as Glutton; or fictional or generic names such as those of Glutton’s fellow-drinkers in the pub, ‘Hikke þe Hakeneyman and Hugh þe Nedlere’ (V.311). The places where Langland pauses to discuss the implications of the same person having more than one name, as he does when he has his dreamer ask Conscience why Jesus should sometimes be called Christ (XIX.15–61), are clearly flagged in ways that make their significance explicit. Yet what we know about both the social and literary practices in the later Middle Ages should make us suspicious of such apparent simplicity, and especially in an author who is never as simple as he looks. One element of his complexity, immediately apparent to any reader and with a long history of critical discussion since Morton Bloomfield first set out to offer his own answer, is his mixture of genres.2 Essentially a dream vision that operates by means of debate, Piers Plowman also aligns itself with satire...

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