The International Piers Plowman Society meets to foster critical study of the versions of the poem Piers Plowman, a fourteenth-century alliterative narrative told in a series of dream visions. As the dreamer Will makes uncertain progress across a landscape beset by crisis and cries for reform, he meets various allegorical characters who instruct him about the problems in political, religious, and social life in late-medieval England. The poem(s) provide the defining standard for a lively, engaged tradition of didactic and allegorical alliterative writing of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries in England.
The Society supports continuing scholarship and teaching about the historical, religious, intellectual, codicological, and critical contexts of the works in the Piers tradition. It was formed at the Second International Langland Conference, held at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, in 1999, and has held meetings at the University of Cambridge (1993), the University of Birmingham (2003), the University of Pennsylvania (2007), and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (2011). The sixth conference is held at the University of Washington.
The Society also publishes the annual Yearbook of Langland Studies and sponsors panels at the international medieval studies congresses in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Leeds, UK. Its website publicizes information on these activities and provides a searchable database of the annual annotated bibliographies published in the yearbook.