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Langland and Allegory.

Langland and Allegory.

Personification allegory, in which inanimate nouns are turned into animate nouns without severing completely their links with the abstract, offers WL the opportunity to exploit the ambivalence between the two functions of generalizing abstraction and as name of the individual, as in the depiction of Liar (B.2.216-33) and the characterization of Meed both as person (for whom we feel sympathy) and abstraction (which is corrupting). WL’s poetry constantly oscillates between the metaphorical and the real world; when plowing “becomes” the pilgrimage the spiritual meaning becomes embodied in an everyday reality to which it has a real relevance. The effect is to represent concrete and abstract as different facets of the same multi-layered reality. WL’s writing is full of abstract agents that can turn into proper personifications with a developed role at any moment. The transformative properties of language emphasize the provisional nature of any grammatical formulation: God, at first the substantive, becomes in C.3.393-405 the accident represented by the adjective. “The reality is the union of man and God.”


The Morton W. Bloomfield Lectures on Medieval English Literature, II. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992.


Mann, Jill.