Nihil Novum Sub Sole: A Medieval Understanding of Discovery
The medieval paradigm of travel as a vehicle for self-discovery is bound up with the doctrine that all had been revealed in Scripture. Augustine’s Confessions provides the model for the tension between the need to seek expressed in physical movement and the realization that the answer lies in stability—indeed, that the answer is already known: “Return, you transgressors to the heart.” Meaningful travel implies return, without which travelling and seeking are merely aimless wandering. The wandering of the dreamer in PPl is both a sign of his spiritual ill health and the only method of arriving at insight. Similar to the dreamer in Pearl, the dreamer in PPl must achieve in himself an immediate apprehension (“kynde knowyng”) of the truth he should have known all along, as he does when he witnesses the Crucifixion.
The Journal of the Association for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Arts 2 (1997): 1-16.