Patterns of the Negative in Piers Plowman.
Analyzes WL’s use of the negative, shown to be governed by an implicit symbol-system in the allegory of PPl. In the passus involving poetic instructors, Will’s use of the negative bears witness to his need for direct and passionate teaching, while the negatives of his teachers serve to admonish and to urge constraint, abnegation, and finally a reversal of impulses from that of a questing faculty to that of Will ready and attuned to Fiat voluntas tua.’ This is complemented by the use of the negative in the Haukyn episode, where it functions as a further step in spiritual cleansing. Will’s dream of Piers relies on contrastive uses of Latin and ME negative forms to dramatize a confrontation of sacred and secular. In the agonistic episodes (e.g., the Harrowing of Hell), WL uses the negative to dramatize the consonance of word and act in divine language and to suggest how problematic human speech is, how susceptible or vulnerable allegoric figures representative of the folk … are to the rhetoric of temptation.’
Russell, Allegoresis 67-88.