Convergent Variation and the Production of Piers Plowman

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This essay re-demonstrates the pervasive reality of convergent variation, whereby unrelated manuscripts (here, of Piers Plowman A and B) come upon the same unauthorial reading. It does so by testing the data and methodology of Michael Madrinkian’s revolutionary proposal about the production of Piers Plowman B (YLS 32), which argues that the B-reviser’s A manuscript was quite corrupt and that, in a separate set of episodes, many of its readings contaminated the main A-text families. He presents his conclusions as having extraordinary implications that are damning for Kane-Donaldson’s edition. Yet Madrinkian mischaracterizes or misunderstands both the nature of the (A)B agreements and the workings of convergent variation, especially coincident substitution. Nothing that he presents as evidence leads easily to his conclusions, and substantial evidence points away from them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-73
JournalThe Yearbook of Langland Studies
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020


  • Piers Plowman
  • text
  • textual history
  • convergent variation
  • manuscripts
  • scribes
  • theory
  • Michael Madrinkian
  • George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson
  • A. V. C. Schmidt
  • editing


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