Piers Plowman And The Books Of Nature
by Rebecca Davis /
2016 / English / PDF
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Piers Plowman and the Books of Nature explores the relationship of divine creativity, poetry, and ethics in William Langland's fourteenth-century dream vision. These concerns converge in the poem's rich vocabulary of kynde, the familiar Middle English word for nature, broadly construed. But in a remarkable coinage, Langland also uses kynde to name nature's creator, who appears as a character in Piers Plowman. The stakes of this representation could not be greater: by depicting God as Kynde, that is, under the guise of creation itself, Langland explores the capacity of nature and of language to bear the plenitude of the divine. In doing so, he advances a daring claim for the spiritual value of literary art, including his own searching form of theological poetry. This claim challenges recent critical attention to the poem's discourses of disability and failure and reveals the poem's place in a long and diverse tradition of medieval humanism that originates in the twelfth century and, indeed, points forward to celebrations of nature and natural capacity in later periods. By contextualizing Langland's poetics of kynde within contemporary literary, philosophical, legal, and theological discourses, Rebecca Davis offers a new literary history for Piers Plowman that opens up many of the poem's most perplexing interpretative problems.