The R Manuscript of Piers Plowman B: a critical fascimile

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The R Manuscript of Piers Plowman B: a critical fascimile

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Title: The R Manuscript of Piers Plowman B: a critical fascimile
Author: Taylor, Sean Patrick
Abstract: The R MS of the B-text of Piers Plowman, along with Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 201 (F), has been said to inherit a uniquely correct version of the poem, containing some 170 lines which do not appear in any of the sixteen witnesses belonging to the $\beta$ branch of the of the B-text MSS tradition. The consensus on the unique material appearing in RF has been that these lines were composed at the same time as the earliest version of the B-text, and that they dropped out of the Beta tradition early due to scribal inefficiency. This study argues that the anomalies of the R MS are introduced by the poet subsequent to the initial "publication" of the B-text, and that R represents a transitional stage of the poem between the B- and C-texts.Chapter One includes a bibliographic description of the R MS including a codicological examination of the manuscript' s construction and the mode of its production. Dating for the MS is determined by an examination of the calligraphy, and the marginal glosses are discussed with a view toward the reception of the poem in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The chapter traces the MS through the various owners who signed the flyleaf to its donation to the Bodleian Library.Chapter Two examines the relationship between the MSS R and F. Several corrections appearing in R are shown to have been made by the scribe of F, suggesting that F may have used the R MS as its exemplar, rather than descending from a common ancestor independent of R. The chapter cites variant readings in F, and argues that they can only have resulted from scribal error traceable to the R MS alone. This indicates that F descends in a linear fashion from R, and possesses no authority as an independent witness to the text of the poem. Hence, the incorporation of nearly one hundred F readings into the 1975 Kane-Donaldson edition is based on an erroneous textual analysis.Chapter Three interrogates the consensus that the unique readings of R represent an inheritance of readings from the archetypal B-text (ca. 1378). The passages unique to R are examined and the majority are shown to have been inserted into an already-existing text after 1382. Thus, the unique readings of R represent a process of revision rather than inheritance of the archetypal B-text tradition. Consequently, the classification of the B-text MSS put forth by Blackman in 1918 and accepted by every subsequent editor, must receive extensive re-evaluation.Chapter Four examines the various levels of dialect represented in the R MS. The features indicative of southwest Worcestershire dialect are shown to be evenly distributed between those parts of the text carried over from the A-text, those which originate with the B-text revision, and the passages unique to R. This suggests not only that the poem's origins lie in the area of Malverne Hills, but that the R additions are authorial, and that the A- and B-texts were composed by a single author.The final section provides a diplomatic facsimile edition of the MS, including variant readings from F and the $\beta$ MSS in apparatus. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1995

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