By Wendy Scase
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:1989
Online Publication Date:February 2010
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.
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