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In the first book to examine one of the most peculiar features of one of the greatest and most perplexing poems of England's late Middle Ages -- the successive attempts of Piers Plowman to begin, and to keep beginning -- D. Vance Smith compels us to rethink beginning, as concept and practice, in both medieval and contemporary terms.The problem of beginning was invested with increasing urgency in the fourteenth century, imagined and grappled with in the courts, the churches, the universities, the workshops, the fields, and the streets of England. The Book of the Incipit reveals how Langland's poem exemplifies a widespread interest in beginning in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, an interest that appears in such divergent fields as the physics of motion, the measurement of time, logic, grammar, rhetoric, theology, book production, and insurrection.Smith offers a theoretical understanding of beginning that departs from the structuralisms of Edward Said, the traditional formalisms of A. D. Nuttall, and most medievalist and modernist treatments of closure. Instead, he conceives a work's beginning as a figure of the work itself, and the inception of language as the problem of beginning to which we continue to return.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780816637607
ISBN-10: 0816637601
Format: Hardback
(235mm x 162mm x 23mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: University of Minnesota Press
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publish Date: 1-May-2001
Country of Publication: United States

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