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Piers <I>Plowman</I> and the New Anticlericalism


  • Page extent: 268 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.4 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521044547)

The medieval English poem Piers Plowman is noted for its attacks on the clergy. The later fourteenth century, when the poem was written, is often thought of as an anticlerical age. This book is an extended investigation of the anticlericalism of the poem. Dr Scase challenges the usual assumption that long-established anticlerical traditions continued unchanged in the conflicts of this period. She describes and analyses important but little-known medieval polemics and satires (many of them only available in manuscript), tracing the emergence of a distinctive 'new anticlericalism' which entailed nothing less than the making of a new anticlerical literature. With the writing of Piers Plowman, she argues, this literary challenge was accepted. Always referring closely to the contemporary controversies, and with constant attention to the detail of the text, she reveals the significance of the poem's anticlericalism. Informative and rigorously argued, this book is intended to convince literary critics and historians alike.


Preface; Acknowledgements; Note on quotations and references; List of abbreviations; 1. Introduction: tradition and the new anticlericalism; 2. The usurpation of priestly power and the transformation of an antifraternal satire; 3. Poverty: an old controversy and a new polemic; 4. Charity: the ground of anticlericalism 5. Antireligious traditions and a new satire in the C-text; 6. Clerical dominion and authority in new anticlerical literature; Notes; Bibliography; General index; Index of Piers Plowman citations.

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