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REVIEWS both, and most show an urgent sense that what they have to say engages with modern debate or, as with Woods andEnders, impacts on the nature ofmodernity itself. By these criteria the final essay, by StevenJustice, is problematic. ItsostensiblesubjectisJohnofExeter, BishopAlnwick'sno­ tary in the Norwich heresy hearings of1429, who deviates from the nor­ mal language of record, Latin, in order to record certain responses in English from those under examination. It is crucial toJustice's case that these departures should be unmotivated, a "random event" arising from thefact that "John ofExeterwas bored" (p. 296).Justice takes this as an oc­ casion to moralize, rebuking fellow scholars for overzealous interrogation ofour evidence and finally insisting, in what is best interpreted as a per­ sonal statement, that we modern academics have more in common with inquisitors than with their victims. The essay is provocative, then; and it achieved prepublication in Representations, a context to which it was far better suited. Here it appears palinodal, not only in relation toJustice's own work on 1381 but also to the rest of the volume. Worse still, its premise is unsustainable: as Susan Crane has shown, the scribe goes into English in order to record wordplay that would be lost in Latin transla­ tion ("Fryday is a/re day"). Ifone wanted to moralize, one might say that literary scholars can hardly contribute to the new cultural history with­ out attentive close reading oftexts. In any case, the self-dramatizing de­ fensiveness ofJustice's piece is at odds with what contributors are doing in most ofthe rest ofthis heartening volume, getting on with work they regard as principled and consequential. DAVID LAWTON University ofEast Anglia GEORGE ECONOMOU, trans. William Langland's Piers Plowman: The C Version: A Verse Translation. Middle Ages Series. Philadelphia: University ofPennsylvania Press, 1996. Pp. xxxiv, 262. $46.50 cloth, $17.95 paper. Like Caesar's ancient Gaul, Piers Plowman has recently proved unwill­ ing to limit itselfto three versions, but those who work with the grow­ ing family that goes by that surname will thank George Economou for his attractive verse translation of the C Version. In long lines marked 243 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER by varied rhythm and strong alliteration, he has given modern voice to the muscular directness of the original. His translation is preceded by a five-page preface; a brief introduction presenting the life and work of William Langland, a summary of the poem, and the principles and prac­ tices of this translation; and four pages of selected bibliography of edi­ tions, translations, and critical studies from 1960 to the present. The volume concludes with forty pages of explanatory notes and an appen­ dix tabulating the "Major Additions, Omissions, and Transpositions of Material in the C Version." (Unfortunately, a number of typographical and copyediting errors-including the last word of the introduction and a crucial "not" omitted at 22.278a-mar this otherwise handsome volume.) Arriving on our shelves just in advance of the long-expected third volume of the Athlone edition, this translation offers a modern English rendition of the C Text published in 1978 by Derek Pearsall. Economou acknowledges "improvements" made as a result of readings contributed by George Kane (p.x). Since these are not, unfortunately, identified in the copious endnotes provided for the text, the exact "original" for his translation may be in doubt at times. Along with the recent lively ren­ dition of A by the late Sister Francis Covella, however, we can add this first translation of C to the many verse and prose modernizations of the B Text. General readers and undergraduate students now have trust­ worthy access to three distinct versions of Piers Plowman. Economou's treatment of the poem's alliterative Middle English for the most part achieves his primary goal of "readabil[i]ty" (p. xxviii). But since, in his brief introduction, he adduces a number of substantial criteria for his translation, it is perhaps fair to employ them in measur­ ing its success. Most of them he meets, but a few (minor) dissatisfac­ tions may cause mixed reactions to the volume, and raise some uncertainty about what exact audience it is intending to address...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 243-246
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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