The Poetics of Authorship in the Later Middle Ages: the Emergence of the Modern Literary Persona
The poetry of WL, as well as that of Guillem IX, Marcabru, Dante and Chaucer, demonstrates a growing awareness of the autonomy of language, which forms the ground for a new sense of individual poetic identity. By the fourteenth century, the properties of statements had become integrated into a vision in which language, human will, and salvation through divine grace existed in an interactively existential structure. In Ockham’s form of nominalism, the mortal world becomes severely limited, in which God could do anything, including withholding grace. As Will, an allegorical representation of voluntas, aligns himself with a textual tradition through quotation and allusion, we see the emerging autonomy of the self vying for equal status with an autonomous divinity, an autonomous nature, and an autonomous language. WL achieves literary power by dismantling his own poetic structure from within, demonstrating the Christian perception that language and poetry inevitably only lead back to themselves, that the only gesture poetry can make toward “knowing truth” is to demonstrate its own inadequacy to say the truth. PPl is a poem about the act of interpretation itself, in which the discussion of textuality becomes based on Pauline and Augustinian linguistic and textual metaphors for revelation and salvation.
Rev. Amy W. Goodwin, SAC 20 (1998): 283-88; J. M. Ganim, Speculum 74 (1999): 443-45.