Readings in Late Medieval Literature and Culture (Pre-1800)

L610 — Spring 2022

Karma Lochrie
Days and Times
11:30a - 12:45p TR (4 CR)
Course Description

Topic: Piers Plowman and the Poetics of Catastrophe

William Langland wrote during a time of cataclysms, political, religious, social, and even medical, as the plague had decimated England and Europe only a few decades before. Besides being one of the great poems of the Middle Ages in England, Piers Plowman also speaks to other times and other catastrophes in its characteristically challenging allegory, its bewildering intertextuality, and its passionate witness to contemporary crises of the late fourteenth century. We will be taking the semester to read this poem in the B-text version in conjunction with a number of different contemporary approaches to it, a consideration of its other (A- and C-) versions, and its prodigious legacy. By way of thinking about the poem alongside our contemporary moment, we will read Lydia Millet’s haunting, funny, and even allegorical work of 2020, A Children’s Bible. Students are not required to have advanced knowledge, but a familiarity with Middle English is helpful.