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William Langland's poem stands at the centre of the study of ideological conflict, social change and religious ideas in the later fourteenth century. It is a poem that vividly encapsulates the great issues and debates of the day and acts as a commentary on cataclysmic events such as the Peasants' Revolt (1381), the condemnation of Wyclif's ideas (1382) and the rise of Lollardy. It is also one of the greatest poems of the English Middle Ages, worth reading beside Dante and Chaucer.The poem has provoked a sophisticated and wide-ranging critical literature. It needs to be read in an edition by an expert conceived with the student-reader in mind. Of the A, B and C versions of the text of Piers Plowman, only a student-geared edition of the B-text exists and that edition is now becoming dated. The C-text, which supersedes B in terms of Langland's poetic career, is also a more complete and carefully structured poem. It needs to be available in an equally readerly edition; this is such an edition. For his new edition of the C-text of Piers Plowman, Derek Pearsall has completely revised the text, added side glosses for the benefit of student readers of the poem (though without sacrificing the glossary), and revised and updated the explanatory notes. The Introduction has also been expanded, revised and reshaped to take account of this. Since the new edition involves a significant reworking of the previous edition and justifies library copy replacement, a hardback library edition will be available for a limited period.
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