Title Background

The Need for Allegory: <i>Wynnere and Wastoure</i> as an <i>Ars Poetica</i>

The Need for Allegory: Wynnere and Wastoure as an Ars Poetica

Wynnere and Wastoure was long considered a showpiece for a nativist alliterative poetics. This essay argues, however, that the poem’s focus is not alliteration but allegory. Beginning with an account of the fracturing of the great hall genre of romance, the Wynnere and Wastoure author devises a self-consciously extra-institutional and experimental poetry that sets an important precedent for Piers Plowman. When the author’s initial foray into vernacular heraldry fails to account for the proliferation of important actors in the public sphere, this failure becomes the premise that generates the allegorical personifications Wynnere and Wastoure. (KB)