Langland's Piers Plowman is a profoundly Christian poem which nevertheless has enjoyed a wide general appeal. Readers - both religious and non-religious - have been drawn by the power of Langland's fictive imagination, the rich variety of imaginary worlds in his great dream-poem.
Langland's Fictions examines the construction of the ten dreams which make up the B Text of Piers Plowman, and explores the relation of these dream-fictions to those realities with which the poet was chiefly preoccupied. This relationship is discussed under three main headings: 'fictions of the divided mind', in which the poet's mixed feelings about matters such as the value of learning find expression in imagined scenes and actions; 'fictions of history', in which the main events of salvation history are relived in the parallel worlds of dream; and 'fictions of the self', in which Langland's doubtful sense of his own moral standing as a man and a poet apparently finds expression. This chapter also addresses the controversial question of 'autobiographical elements' in the poem.
J. A. Burrow's lively and considered study is a major contribution to our understanding of one of medieval literature's most enduring works.
`this book provides its readers with a salutary wide perspective that draws together the complex diversity of the poem and offers the opportunity for introspective reflection...a most useful overview of major artistic dimensions of the poem...its author's deep learning is to be felt in every part of the work, though lightly worn...scholars and critics of medieval literature will find this book profitable reading for themselves, and a most valuable
introduction to the poem for students.'
Notes and Queries
`...undergrauates will probably be the primary audience of the book, and they can learn much from it. Burrow's tremendously good editorial sense is evident in his penetrating critique of Adam's view that the rubrics of the poem are scribal.'
Modern Language Review
`a critical study which is open and honest in its confrontation of the difficulties presented by Langland's enigmatic masterpiece...'Langland's Fictions' is a welcome study, and contains many stimulating apercus...when he has finished this book, even the agnostic reader is likely to believe that in 'Piers Plowman' there is a real poetic personality at work.'
`Burrow lays a thorough foundation of minor epicists...Burrow has a sensitive feel for Renaissance attitudes to ancient epic.'
Modern Language Review