Transito and Psychoallegoresis in Piers Plowman.
Explores through Lacanian psychology the discourse of transitio in PPl, which is described as having a semiosis both rhetorical (denoting movement between parts, changes in method or subject) and general (changes in form, substance, circumstance, of people, concepts, objects). Such discourse reflects society’s need for change and the dreamer’s own changes in relation to a God who requires change. PPl is about WL’s unconscious, and like Lacan’s thoughts about the goals of analysis, might be said to aim at “the advent of an authentic speech and the realization by the subject of his history, in relation to a future.” The disjunctive nature of the poem results from a tension between, in Lacan’s terms, the realm of “desire” and the Law-of-the-Father, between telling one’s own story and telling the Father’s story. Holy Church tells the dreamer how to relate to the Father (through obedience to law), while Lady Meed speaks the language of desire. Piers is a father-figure introduced as cognitively desirable. The Vita indicates that Will’s psychoanalysis is advancing: beginning with passus 8 he is a more active “subject-in and object-of discourse. ” The plethora of authoritative pronouncements in passus 8-12 suggests, from a Lacanian approach, “borderline discourse” known for its absence of signifying. The Doctor of Theology in passus 13 is the last dramatic character created out of Will’s “unresolved and untransferred forbidden desire,” a character whom the Dreamer can at last reject. Finally, Will comes to find his lost self through the charitable image of Christ, for charity can become the means of adult transfer of the lost “free liberal will” of childhood desire. Two images from passus 17 pertain to WL’s positive psychological resolution: symbolic acceptance into the community (figured in the Samaritan episode), and the phallic representation of the Son as a finger or fingers (17.148-51).
Russell, Allegoresis, 133-55.
Blythe, Joan Heiges.