Allegory Without the Teeth: Some Reflections of Figural Language in Piers Plowman.
Noting the diverse range of tropes falling under (or translated as) the term allegory, Carruthers distinguishes between obscuritas and pictura, and investigates how they invite different interpretive tactics from a reader. While obscuritas presents a kind of philosophical mind game, a puzzle whose unravelling provides pleasure and leads to knowledge, pictura acts as a tool to organize and clarify complex subject matter. Carruthers observes that picturae often ‘occupy a summary/orientation position at points of change’ (p. 38) in PPl, providing delight and lucidity, and she emphasizes that the ‘human wit and wisdom’ of rhetorical pictura is substantive on its own terms, even if lacking ‘the salvific heft […] of chewing divine obscuritas’ (p. 43).
YLS, 19 (2005), 27–43.