Langland's Fictions

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 Pears 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. John Burrow's lively and considered study is a major contribution to our understanding of one of medieval literature's most enduring works.