by William Langland
translated by Michael Calabrese
Catholic University of America Press, 2023
Paper: 978-0-8132-3775-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8132-3776-3

Passionate about trying to create social justice in a time of crisis after the Black Plague, William Langland spent his entire life working on Piers Plowman, an epic study of the human quest for truth, justice, and community. The "A Version," the first and shortest of the three versions he crafted, is wonderfully relatable and completely teachable to a modern student audience. Piers Plowman is becoming ever more relevant to students and scholars in English studies. Perhaps because the poem involves culture, religion, community, and work and engages explicitly with the histories of government and popular revolt, this allegorical tale of a wandering Christian named "Will," searching for truth with the aid of a humble plowman named Piers, has found new critical and pedagogic life in the last 20 years. Currently there are no translations of the A-version of Piers Plowman in print, so readers, scholars and teachers have been longing for an affordable, student-centered translation. The apparatus includes a 30-page historical and critical introduction, footnotes, a bibliography, a note on translation theory and practice, and samplings of the original text in Middle English, with a guide to pronunciation of that language.

Piers Plowman is an extraordinary important document about the issues dramatically relevant to this day. It confronts poverty and inequity in 14th-century England and explores the need for virtue and social justice, encouraging its readers to create equality with open access for people of all classes and abilities. Though a Christian poem, Piers addresses issues of inclusivity, social responsibility and communal duty, as the poem’s protagonist wanders about the world, facing injustice and persecution as he looks for truth and salvation. Michael Calabrese, author of An Introduction to Piers Plowman and director of the Chaucer Studio’s Middle English recording of the poem, brings Piers Plowman to life for 21st-century students and for all readers interested in the history of society, virtue, faith and salvation.