Transforming Work: Protestantism and the Piers Plowman Tradition Journal Article uri icon



  • The figure of the plowman achieved a certain popularity in mid-sixteenth-century England with the publication of William Langland's medieval poem, Piers Plowman, and in a number of treatises written in imitation of it such as I playne Piers which cannot flatter. This post-Reformation plowman has long been read as an uncomplicated spokesman for an anticlerical Protestantism. This article argues, in contrast, that these plowmen are evidence of a continuing interest in a medieval Catholic symbolic imagination centered on work–as physical labor and as spiritual labor, such as good deeds. In other words, the new Protestant deemphasis on spiritual works was understood at the time to threaten the reformist and even radical potential of discourses of rural labor. This popular figure of the plowman demonstrates, therefore, the conflict between residual and emergent meanings of labor.

publication date

  • September 1, 2010

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • June 2, 2014 11:12 AM

Full Author List

  • Little KC

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1082-9636

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-8263

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 497

end page

  • 526


  • 40


  • 3