Mar 5, 3:00PM – Apr 23, 4:30PM
Rose Alumni House, New Haven, CT
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Yale Alumni College: Piers Plowman
Reading and discussion of this vigorous and restless poem from the fourteenth-century, by William Langland. Langland was a contemporary of Chaucer’s, also writing in London, but his poem is much different from anything of Chaucer’s: a dream vision in alliterative verse, filled with satire on contemporary institutions, in which the searching, questioning protagonist Will interacts, sometimes very combatively, with a series of allegorical figures who gradually calm and enlighten him, and undo somewhat his distrust of institutional religion, though the poem ends apocalyptically with the church apparently in the grip of greedy hypocrites. We will use the Norton Critical Edition, which has the Middle English on one side and a translation by Talbot Donaldson, a longtime member of our faculty, on the other. You may simply read the poem in the translation if you like, but I will encourage as much reading in the wonderful poetry of the original as possible, and when I focus in class on a passage, it will be on the Middle English text. I consider Piers Plowman a great masterpiece that deserves a much wider readership.
The poem is about 7500 lines long, so the reading will be roughly 900 lines a week.
Rose Alumni House, New Haven, CT — 232 York Street