Title Background

William Langland and Jean Piaget.

William Langland and Jean Piaget.

Uses Piaget’s developmental principles to illuminate the poem, which is seen to move “from a view which reflects the limitation of the one perceiving to the diffuse nature of that which is seen. ” In the opening vision, juxtaposition (the absence of relations between details) and syncretism (a vision of the whole as a vague schema) characterize the narrator’s understanding. Will searches for a syncretic view of Dowel, but in what Piaget would call an egocentric manner, placing the focus on himself rather than on the object of his search. Indeed, Will never seems to reach the stage of synthesizing all the definitions into a meaningful abstract concept. B.17-18 shows Will achieving his greatest understanding in the poem, and exemplifies Piaget’s insistence on an equilibrium between assimilation (incorporating a feature of reality into a larger schema) and accommodation (adjusting a generalization to fit the particular). Finally, “adapting Piaget’s notion of reversibility, especially reciprocity, helps us understand the dynamism of Will’s understanding of love, of Jesus, of Piers, and of the three lives themselves.”


Russell, Allegoresis 89-106.

Cross Reference



Manning, Stephen.