Langland and Chaucer

Nicholas Watson

in The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544486
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780198614128 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Langland and Chaucer

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  • Philosophy of Religion
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When Langland and Chaucer were writing, in the last decades of the fourteenth century, Christian theology had much of the intellectual and cultural authority that science does now. Like modern science, late-medieval theology – especially the scholastic theology developed in the universities from the twelfth century on – was a specialized, sophisticated, and constantly developing body of thought and experiment. Caught between competing views of the role of the church, the responsibilities of the individual Christian, and the possibility of salvation for all but the most pure, Langland and Chaucer are among those who refuse to take sides, focusing their energies on analysing both the problems and their possible, often mutually incompatible, solutions. Both Langland's Piers Plowman and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, left unfinished at the poet's death in 1400, are much engaged with Christian theology, its incarnation in the church, and the religious role played by secular society.

Keywords: medieval theology; Canterbury Tales; Christian theology; scholastic theology; Piers Plowman; secular society

Article.  9843 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion ; Christianity ; Religious Studies

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