Title Background

Personification and Penance’

Personification and Penance’

Personification has been considered a derivative both within L scholarship and by modern theories of allegory. Personification was actually at the heart of L’s poetic practice, enabling him to negotiate between allegorical and mimetic modes of narrative, whose combination scholars have long recognized as a particularly distinctive feature of PPl. As the tour de force that is the portrait of Glutton in B.5 demonstrates, L was intensely interested in the convergence between personification and penance. What he saw in this convergence was a mutual interest in semiotic instability. From a doctrinal perspective this instability is the product of the infinite and incessant superabundance of Christ’s forgiveness. From a poetic perspective personification’s irreducibly double commitment to allegoresis and mimesis makes it one of allegory’s central discursive resources, and severely complicates Coleridgean views of allegory as a period marker of the Middle Ages. The portrait of Glutton, allegorical and mimetic throughout, is a specifically penitential instance of the Liar’s Paradox, an important concept both in medieval philosophy and Lacanian psychoanalysis, which can be found previously personified in Jean de Meun’s Faus Semblant and Chaucer’s Pardoner. (LS)


YLS, 21 (2007), 1–29.


Scanlon, Larry