Who Has Written This Book?’: Visionary Autobiography in Langland’s C Text.
The C text shows WL’s attempt to validate his religious visions according to established criteria testing the visionary’s mode of living, social standing, temperament, and religious commitment. Questions of poetic vocation in B give way to questions of visionary vocation; the “autobiographical passage,” re-working lines from Imaginatif’s interrogation in B.12 into Will’s confrontation with Conscience and Reason, shifts the personified mental faculties to a higher plane of respectability. In C, WL cancels or modifies idyllic settings (reminiscent of fictionalized literary visions) and conforms settings to religious vision conventions. In the “autobiographical passage” the narrator is identified very specifically; the vision occurs in a waking state and results in a change in the visionary’s life; the episode occurs in a realistic setting and ends in church. The poet is anxious to describe himself as stable, clerkly, and sound of mind.
The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England: Exeter Symposium V, ed. Marion Glasscoe. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1992. 101-16.