Title Background

The Poetics of Personification

The Poetics of Personification

Although PPl seems to follow the “newer” continental tradition of allegorical character-mixing among dream levels, in actuality no personifications exist in the mimetic frame of Will’s waking reality. The apparent exceptions – Will’s questioning the friars regarding the whereabouts of Dowel (B.8) and Will’s meeting with Need (B.20) – rely on a confusion between rhetorically ornamental and characterizational personifications. On the diegetic level of the outer dream, Will can name only those personifications he observes from a distance; on the level of the inner dream he can also name those figures whom he meets directly, suggesting that he has moved up to a cosmic order as ontologically different from the outer dream level as that was from waking reality. The variety of methods in naming personification figures suggests the problematic implication of “distilling ideas into palpable form for discursive manipulation.” Anima in its various guises (B.15) represents the fullest literary realization of personification personified, as well as WL’s nominalist poetic impulse to reduce the potential multiplication of personified characters.

Rev. Craig R. Davis, Speculum 70 (1995): 960; Joseph S. Wittig, YLS 9 (1995): 176-83; Mark Allen, MAE 65 (1996): 110-11; Clare R. Kinney, SAC 18 (1996): 266-68.


Literature, Culture, Theory 6. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 114-38.


Paxson, James