Chapter

From “Wit to Wisedom”: Langland's Ymaginatif

Michelle Karnes

in Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780226425313
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226425337 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226425337.003.0006
From “Wit to Wisedom”: Langland's Ymaginatif

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This chapter discusses a poem, Piers Plowman that relies on imagination overtly. Piers Plowman's Ymaginatif serves the familiar function of drawing the mind—here Will's mind—from natural, sensory cognition to clergy, or revealed, spiritual understanding, though he has occasioned much debate in Langland scholarship. Will's learned ability to use his imaginative faculty properly allows him to see the spiritual in the natural in the remainder of the poem. His own meditation on Christ's life indicates that he has learned to use his imagination effectively. If the argument given here is right, then Will's newfound ability to immerse himself in biblical narrative is a result of his learning to use imagination properly. Piers Plowman thus, depicts an imagination that is at the height of its powers. The special relationship between imagination's cognitive and meditative work that this book has been exploring does not long survive Langland.

Keywords: Piers Plowman; Ymaginatif; Langland scholarship; Christ; meditation; imagination; meditative work; biblical narrative

Chapter.  13128 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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