Student Author(s)

Heather Patnott

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Curtis Gruenler

Document Type


Event Date



The complex narrative structure of Piers Plowman, a fourteenth-century, visionary poem attributed to William Langland and surviving in three versions, provides a struggle for both students approaching the poem for the first time and scholars who have been studying the poem for years. Often the poem is divided into passus, meaning steps, and sometimes split into two sections, the Visio and the Vita. These divisions are based on manuscript markings, but scholars disagree about their validity. Another way to break apart the poem, one that doesn’t rely on manuscript markings that may or may not be a result of scribal corruption, is into the dreams and dreams within dreams of the narrator. A further complication of working with the poem is that the narrative itself is discontinuous and defies attempts to summarize it. The goal of my project was to examine shapes scholars have used to define the narrative structure of Piers Plowman in order to come up with a way to visualize the poem without denying its complexity. I worked with a future project in mind of the creation of a digital tool to help students and scholars alike explore the poem.