A Game of Heuene

May 1989
158 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Piers Plowman Studies
ISBN: 9780859912723
Format: Hardback

A Game of Heuene

Word Play and the Meaning of Piers Plowman B

Mary Clemente Davlin

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A Game of Heuene is a stylistic study of word play in the B-version of the Middle English narrative poem, Piers Plowman. In a close reading of Passus I, IX, XI, and XVIII, Davlin shows the frequency of word play and its effectiveness in multiplying meaning, developing themes, and suggesting relationships. Like other notorious `shifting, unstable' elements of style in Piers Plowman, its word play is enigmatic and demands of the reader intense attention and play of mind. Davlin argues that such demands are a way of involving the reader in the text as `a game of heuene' (Langland's phrase for language, IX, 104), which teaches how to read experience as well as words in order to find Treuthe. The difficult form of Piers Plowman,is thus mimetic of its protagonist's struggle to experience Treuthe, and also ludic, requiring the reader to share aesthetically in Will's experience by playing the `game of heuene', learning `kyndeli to knowe —Treuthe'through deciphering its enigmas. A Game of Heuene advocates and demonstrates close reading with attention to word play, and should be useful to beginning students of Piers Plowmanas well as to scholars; its explication opens the meaning of particular passages and proposes a new understanding of the meaning of the entire structure and style of the poem .


A rewardingly close reading of some of the puns and wordplay... sheds interesting and provocative light on a number of individual lines and words, demonstrating how the shifting and unstable nature of wordplay in the poem is symptomatic of the dreqamer's stumbling search for truth and Langland's own exploration of Christian paradox. MEDIUM AEVUM`ambitious and thoroughgoing study of word play ... will make a substantial contribution to the understanding of some part of Piers Plowman.' J.A. BURROW Rev. Eng. St. 42, 166; 5/91This is the first full-length study of word-play in Piers Plowman. In contrast with the frequently tortuous minor articles on the subject, so passionate and perceptive is Sister Davlin about wordplay thatto read this book is to experience something of Langland's own lightness and sureness of touch. It is a skilful feat. YEAR'S WORK IN ENGLISH STUDIES 70 (1989)

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