Title Background

Langland’s Ymaginatif: Images and the Limits of Poetry.

Langland’s Ymaginatif: Images and the Limits of Poetry.

Substantial potential for usage variation inheres in the very semantic category of Imaginatif. While the character may personify “the vis imaginativa of the scholastics” (Carruthers) or be associated with the “cella imaginativa, the front cerebral ventricle,” an analysis of Imaginatif’s role around the crucial moment in B.12 when he rejects L’s “entire poetic project” helps to identify him on “the basis of a [different] discursive practice.” Rather than working as an image-making power, Imaginatif’s basic action proceeds as opposed to that of Reason and Clergy—indeed, the personification is “predicated upon a separation” from these latter two. Imaginatif “generalizes from the particulars experience has provided” and works by making connections between specific, yet dispersed sensory data. Thus, although “imaginative action” does not resemble scholastic or theological discourse, Imaginatif proves to be a particularly apt interlocutor for Will at the very moment when he is alienated from Reason. Imaginatif distinguishes between two kinds of learning—”the merely visual (and explicitly pre-Christian and poetic) acts of Kind Wit” and “Christian book-learning, Clergy.” An analysis of Imaginatif’s “scrap-bag” of examples and argumentation shows that he is a man of common sense, of “trivium-y training,” and that he does very little that cannot be understood “by the most pedestrian Middle English uses of his name.” Despite Will’s clerkly aspirations the impetus of Imaginatif’s argumentation would be to get him “to rely on the . . . limited . . . power of . . . Kind-Wit” rather than indulging in ratiocination. Such an understanding of Imaginatif leads to knocking down the non-medieval idol of “L the clerkly maker.”


Dimmick, Simpson, and Zeeman, Images, Idolatry, and Iconoclasm, 81–94.

Cross Reference



Hanna, Ralph.