This session deals with sources and problems in Langland’s personification allegory.
Was William Langland a neo-Augustinian or a semi-Pelagian? My paper will try to renew a debate which was at its height twenty-five years ago. I want to argue that given his desire for a social and ethical reform of English church and society, Langland opposes neo-Augustinianism as licensing antinomianism and enervation of the will. Key to this is Will’s toying with predestination in passus x-xi of the B-text. Langland draws on alternative orthodoxies to bring about and secure Will’s empowerment, at the same time confronting society with the cruciality of ‘redde quod debes’.
Envy changes gender as it crosses late medieval discourses – typically masculine in chapel paintings and anti-clerical poetry, often feminine in allegory and moralizing sermons. This paper examines shifts in the gender of envy in Piers Plowman. Langland’s Envy is male, but at key moments his gender becomes unstable (as manuscript variation attests). This instability points to the poem’s ambivalence about desire between the sexes, and the influence of a long tradition of depictions of the envious female body. I conclude by suggesting ways that representations of envy may be used to investigate medieval ideas about gender and sexuality.