The Humanity of Christ: Representations in Wycliffite Texts and Piers Plowman
A substantial revision of his earlier researches (YLS 8 :107-25). The Wycliffite model of imitatio Christi concentrated on Christ’s prophetic ministry and the power displayed in his resurrection, in opposition to the models produced by established religious institutions. Similarly, the author of PPl also sets aside the dominant representations of Christ’s humanity in favor of a socially embodied and collective imitation of Christ based in the maintenance of justice in the community. The figure of Piers becomes the embodiment of the imitation of Christ. The one unforgivable sin becomes vnkyndenesse, since it constitutes a denial of one’s own kynde, one’s inalienable connections with others. The emancipatory force displayed in the Harrowing of Hell is bound up in God’s identification with the kynde of humanity, which obliges him “to be merciable to man.” In response to the poem’s vision of Christ, Conscience is compelled to “imitate” him by breaking unity with the existing church, and setting out on a renewed quest for Piers and Grace outside the official mediators and agencies offered by the church as the exclusive way to salvation.