Steven Justice

Steven Justice

Professor and Chair
322 Wheeler Hall
By appointment. Contact me ( or Grace de Guzman (

Professional Statement

Justice joined the faculty in 1987 after a short stint at Washington University, and, one recent absence apart, has doggedly remained.

His chronological and geographical focus is impulsive and vagrant, though it usually comes home to the later middle ages in Britain. (It wanders backward from there more often than forward.) He tends to seek out medieval works that think thoughts more interesting, and pose questions more riddling, than the critical tools we bring to bear on them. Thus Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (1994) showed that fourteenth-century peasants had acted on the kinds of analysis historicism might try to subject them to; recent articles (2008, 2012, 2014) argue that medieval belief does not differ from belief as such, and is intelligible only as propositions, assessable in the same way, and having the same chance of truth or falsehood, as any proposition that scholarship might venture; Adam Usk's Secret (Penn, 2015) found that Usk's unnerving little Latin chronicle supplies effects that criticism can describe and explain but nothing that descriptive or symptomatic criticism can generalize.

He is working now on Volume 3 of the Penn Commentary on Piers Plowman; this volume, which treats the poem's third vision—from Thought's entrance to Imaginative's exit—was begun by Anne Middleton.




Title Fields
Adam Usk's Secret Adam Usk's Secret
Adam Usk, a Welsh lawyer in England and Rome during the first years of the fifteenth century, lived a peculiar life. He was, by turns, a professor, a royal advisor, a traitor, a schismatic, and a spy. He cultivated and then sabotaged figures of great infl uence, switching allegiances between kings, upstarts, and popes at an astonishing pace. Usk also wrote a peculiar book: a chronicle of his own ....
Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381
In this account of the "peasants' revolt" of 1381, in which rebels burned hundreds of official archives and attacked other symbols of authority, Steven Justice demonstrates that the rebellion was not an uncontrolled, inarticulate explosion of peasant resentment but an informed and tactical claim to literacy and rule. Focusing on six brief, enigmatic texts written by the rebels themselves, Justic....

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered

"The General Prologue." In Frank Grady, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Canterbury Tales, forthcoming.

"Aers's Langland and the Truth of Poetry." Syndicate: Theology 2017 (

"'Shameless': Augustine, After Augustine, and Way After Augustine." Journal of Medieval and Early-Modern Studies 44 (2014):17-43.

"Piers Plowman and Literary History." In Andrew Galloway and Andrew Cole, eds. The Cambridge Compaion to Piers Plowman. Cambridge, 2014, 50-64.

"Chaucer's History-Effect." In Andrew Galloway and Frank Grady, eds., Answerable Style: The Idea of the Literary in Medieval England. Ohio State University Press, 2013, 169-94.

(edited, with introduction) Anne Middleton. Chaucer, Langland, and Fourteenth-Century Literary History. Ashgate, 2013.

"Eucharistic Miracle and Eucharistic Doubt," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 42 (2012):307-322.

"Who Stole Robertson?" PMLA 124 (2009):609-15.

"Literary History." In David Raybin and Susanna Fein, eds., Chaucer: Contemporary Approaches. Penn State, 2009, 195-210.

"Did the Middle Ages Believe in their Miracles?" Representations 103 (2008):1-29.

"Religious Dissent, Social Revolt, and 'Ideology.'" In Christopher Dyer and Chris Wickham, eds. Rodney Hilton’s Middle Ages: Essays on his Historical Themes. Past and Present Supplement 1. Oxford, 2007, 205-16.

Recent English Courses Taught

Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
45A/1 Literature in English: Through Milton Introductory Surveys
45A/101 -- discussion section Clark, Amy
45A/102 -- discussion section Homans-Turnbull, Marian
211/1 Chaucer Middle English
Graduate Courses
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
111/1 Chaucer Pre-1800 Requirement
Middle English

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