"In Chaucer and Langland: The Antagonistic Tradition, John M. Bowers advances a provocative argument in the field of Middle English literary studies while also providing a comprehensive and extremely useful overview of the most significant Langlandian and Chaucerian criticism of the last half century. This consolidation of decades of scholarship on medieval England's two central poets will provide a constant point of reference both for students and advanced scholars working in Middle English." —Bruce Holsinger, University of Virginia
“The twentieth turned out not to have been the century of Deleuze, after all, but the fourteenth still could become the century of Langland. In a series of seemingly counterintuitive, yet deeply resourceful, readings, Bowers compellingly reorganizes medieval and early modern English literary history around the dual figures of Chaucer and Langland. He shows not only how an account of Langland and his readers is indispensable to a full understanding of the emergence of English literature, but that the complex literary afterlife of the fourteenth century is already inscribed in the heterogeneous beginnings of Piers Plowman. This is an important corrective to the comparative neglect of Langland in recent years.” —D. Vance Smith, Princeton University
"John Bowers has produced what is in many ways an admirable and ambitious volume of new literary history. He makes what could truly be called a master narrative by pushing to extremes the tendencies and implications of recent scholarship. This ingenious work will provoke thought, citation, and occasional outrage." —David Lawton, Washington University
Although Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland together dominate fourteenth-century English literature, their respective masterpieces, The Canterbury Tales and Piers Plowman, could not be more different. While Langland’s poem was immediately popular and influential, it was Chaucer who stood at the head of a literary tradition within a generation of his death. John Bowers asks why and how Chaucer, not Langland, was granted this position. His study reveals the political, social, and religious factors that contributed to the formation of a literary canon in fourteenth-century England.