in Conscience and the Composition of Piers Plowman

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199653768
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741678 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs


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The Introduction provides a framework for investigating personifications in the serial versions of Piers Plowman. Past discussions of Conscience have either focused on scholastic accounts of the faculty ‘conscience’ or have assumed that Conscience develops as a character during the course of Piers Plowman. But is a mistake to suppose that Langland's personifications ‘develop’ like characters in a novel. Rather, Langland's composition of the poem from multiple different discourses produces the effect of character ‘development’ as the figure is transformed within a changing narrative context. Moreover, Langland composes the serial versions of Piers Plowman as a single continuous dialogue or debate in a way that produces continuities that we read as the unified traits of a ‘character’: a ‘character’ who, as the poem is revised, appears to undergo a process of ‘development’ through the course of the versions as well as during the single version.

Keywords: conscience; scholasticism; moral faculties; characterisation; personification; allegory

Chapter.  8574 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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