Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lost History of Piers Plowman

Penn Press

New in Literature
The Lost History of The Lost History of "Piers Plowman": The Earliest Transmission of Langland's Work
Lawrence Warner
144 pages | 6 x 9 | 3 illus.
Cloth 2010 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4275-1 | $49.95 | £32.50
A volume in the Middle Ages Series

This groundbreaking work challenges the received history of William Langland's Piers Plowman. Through close textual analysis, Lawrence Warner brings about a fundamental shift in our understanding of the production and transmission of the poem's three versions, establishing an entirely new paradigm for the study of Middle English literature. Read more . . .

Book reviewers: to request a press copy, contact Ellen Trachtenberg at
Educators: to request an exam copy for course use consideration, click here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Yearbook of Langland Studies online: Available

Hello Langland essay writers,

FYI go to for full access to YLS vols. 1 (1987) - 21 (2007).


Monday, May 4, 2009

"History of Britain Revealed"?

At last week's Middle English reading group, Alex Jones lent me a copy of M. J. Harper's History of Britain Revealed, which argues among other chestnuts that English does not descend from Old English, French is derived from English, etc. Apparently its author intends it seriously. Anything I say about it is by Harper's criteria automatically wrong, since I'm an academic. Fair cop, but I did want to make one point about his argument, one that I haven't seen in my brief survey on the blogosphere.

Harper heaps scorn on academics whenever they have recourse to the idea that a language wasn't written down during certain stages of its life (e.g., between Latin and the romance languages as we know them). But his whole book is an elaboration upon that assumption, which is apparently not so idiotic so long as he's the one doing it. In his polemic, English was not recorded before c. 1100. Oh, and (the entirely different language) Anglo-Saxon just happens not to have been recorded after c. 1100. Mere coincidence; don't look behind the curtain, let's instead insult academics again. Anyway (keep your eyes away from that curtain! look back here!) Angl0-Saxon really isn't so great, because Beowulf is a 16th-century forgery.

(Yes, he really says that.)

His evidence that English hasn't ever changed is that brief bits of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Eliot are comprehensible to us today where Anglo-Saxon isn't. Against that hugely compelling point I'll just point to, oh, The Owl and the Nightingale. I can hear the response: "Oh! well that's in an entirely different language altogether. We'll call it ... Owlish. Sure, why not. It's Owlish."

This is a really fun read, if pretty depressing once one realizes that this guy apparently means it and that so many reviewers and bloggers think it's so great. Best to imagine it, as one of the sane bloggers out there had initially hoped it really was, as more of a Colbert approach. "Nation! I'm tired of evidence and logic. Let's get up to some silliness instead!!"

OK, back to Langland now everyone, C Passus XVIII-XX for next Monday! (Yes, in MIDDLE ENGLISH.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wendy Scase Lecture 30 April

Hello everyone, Please come to this exciting lecture. Wendy Scase is one of the leading scholars on Piers Plowman and members of this Hons seminar will already know her from her visit to our class on Monday, 27 April. Note change of date (updated 23 April 2009):

Centre for Medieval Studies
University of Sydney

Wendy Scase

Geoffrey Shepherd Professor of
Medieval English Literature
University of Birmingham

w i l l l e c t u r e o n

Rhetorical education and responses to "Piers Plowman" in the fifteenth century

5.00 (for 5.30) p.m. Tuesday 28 April (note change of date) John Woolley Building (A20), room S325

If you would like to join Wendy and others for dinner afterwards, locally, cost $35-40, RSVP or before noon, Monday 27 April, preferably earlier.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yearbook of Langland Studies online+print subscription!

This just in!!

"Dear Lawrence,

I am pleased to advise that as requested, we have been successful in upgrading our current subscription for the Yearbook of Langland Studies to Print + Online. The upgrade has been submitted and received by our supplier. The publisher will advise us shortly when the online version becomes available."

Keep your eyes peeled ...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Middle English Reading Group: Wednesday at 1:00

The Middle English Reading Group (MERG) will meet on Wednesday, 11 March at 1 p.m. in the courtyard of the Holmes Building.

They'll be tracking our readings so go along for some fun! All welcome; the group reads and doesn't translate or interpret or anything like that--very low pressure and great practice.

This week (11 March) it'll be passus I-II (of Pearsall's new C edition).

Monday, March 2, 2009

C-Text Manuscript in microfilm

Available at Fisher Library (here is the link to the catalog entry): this is Trinity College Dublin MS 212.