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"I'd be an unkind king unless I help my kin": Christ's Peace and Versions of Peace in William Langland's Piers Plowman

Christ's harrowing of hell in MS Arundel 157
Thursday, October 26, 2023
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Sheryl Overmyer, DePaul University

Sheryl Overmyer received her doctorate from Duke University, Department of Religion in 2010, under the supervision of Stanley Hauerwas and David Aers. She is an Associate Professor of Catholic Studies at DePaul University and the author of Two Guides for the Journey: Thomas Aquinas and William Langland on the Virtues (Cascade, 2016). To answer questions of fundamental moral theology, she enlists the help of Thomas Aquinas, William Langland, and (of recent note) the psychological sciences.

A draft of her essay-in-progress, "'I'd be an unkind king unless I help my kin':
Christ's Peace and Versions of Peace in William Langland's Piers Plowman," should be read by participants ahead of the seminar (contact Dr. Michael Cornett at to get a copy). The emerging essay is organized around the dramatic retelling of Christ's harrowing of hell in William Langland's Piers Plowman. Counterintuitively, Christ's harrowing of hell is the divine message of peace, an extension of the Incarnation and Christ's desire to extend mercy and love to humanity. This moment of true peace also provides the hermeneutic key to chart Langland's other figurations of Peace in the poem. Langland uses secondary notions of "peace" to describe institutions in crisis and the limits of creaturely participation in divine perfection. Taken together, true peace and various kinds of "peace" attest to Langland's skillful use of analogical language and differentiated use of theological concepts across the poem.