Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Beyond Reformation? an Essay on William Langland's Piers Plowman and the End of Constantinian Christianity

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Beyond Reformation? an Essay on William Langland's Piers Plowman and the End of Constantinian Christianity

Article excerpt

Beyond Reformation ? An Essay on William Langland's Piers Plowman and the End of Constantinian Christianity. By David Aers. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. 2015. Pp. xix, 256. $35.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-26802046-0).

In this fine, provocative essay David Aers extends his previous studies of Piers Plowman to explore Langland's attitudes toward the theological and social issues of his time as set out in the final version of the poem, the C-text, and reflects on their relevance to current concerns. He believes that those writing "grand narratives" of the history of religious movements need to take fuller account of the poem, which addresses a very modern topic, the dechristianization of society. Aers argues that explorations of Langland's position have been so concerned to demonstrate that he was not a Wycliffite, as he was painted at the Reformation, that they have overlooked his very unorthodox views. Wyclif's solution to the corruption of the Church is voiced in the poem by Liberum Arbitrium reflecting on the Donation of Constantine, by which, it was supposed, the Church was endowed with material possessions, with disastrous results. Liberum Arbitrium proposes the transfer of ecclesiastical possessions to the Crown. This vast addition to the king's powers is not Langland's solution, though sixteenth-century readers marked out the passage as a prognosis of what was to come, for the proposal is superseded by the narrative of the last part of the poem. To appreciate this we need to grasp Langland's method of argument, which Aers describes very well as "a dialectic which is rooted in a logic of disputation." He continues: "It moves by expressing a range of positions and their consequences. . . . Superseded moments are not simply abandoned to be forgotten. For they too, in their very supersession, remain constitutive of the total dialectical moment" (pp. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.