'Piers Plowman' and the Medieval Discourse of Desireby Nicolette Zeeman
Pub. Date: 04/30/2006
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
This ambitious work links William Langland's great poem Piers Plowman to wider medieval enquiries into the nature of intellectual and spiritual desire. Nicolette Zeeman traces the history of psychology and its iconography in medieval devotional and theological literature, stretching back to St Augustine and Gregory the Great, and shows how an understanding of these traditions opens up a fresh reading of Piers Plowman. She challenges the consensus according to which the poem narrates an essentially positive 'education' of the will, and reveals instead a narrative of desire emerging from rebuke, loss and denial. This radical reading revolutionises our thinking about Piers Plowman, and sheds light on the history of medieval psychology, devotion, pastoral care, medieval textual theory and literary history.
Table of ContentsList of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Note on the text; Introduction: trial by desire; 1. 'Painful lettings': sin, temptation and tribulation; 2. Powers of knowledge and desire; 3. Studying the word; 4. The word heard and written; 5. Seeing and suffering in nature; 6. Clergie and kynde in Piers Plowman; 7. Imaginatyf and the feast of Pacience; 8. A poem shaped by knowing and wanting; Bibliography; Index.
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