The Eremitic Ideal and the Dreamer’s Quest in Piers Plowman

The Eremitic Ideal and the Dreamer’s Quest in Piers Plowman

Hicks, James E.

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 2 (1985)


E. Talbot Donaldson observes in Piers Plowman: The C-Text and Its Poet that few social groups escape Langland’s censure. Donaldson subsequently devotes some attention to particular occupations in the “fair feld ful of folk” which provoke Langland’s indignation. After discussing ecclesiastics, minstrels, and beggars, Donaldson inexplicably dismisses Langland’s hermits in a summary manner. He concludes that Langland’s invective against recluses stems either from eremitic experiences in Langland’s life which continue to elicit vituperation or from the breach between the ideal of the Desert Fathers and the practice of contemporary hermits (128). Although Donaldson notes the disparity between the eremitic ideal and the customs of contemporary hermits, he overlooks Langland’s attempt to connect the traditional eremitic ideal and the Dreamer’s quest in Piers Plowman.

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