Pinning Down the Purpose of Pearl

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Pinning Down the Purpose of Pearl Empty Pinning Down the Purpose of Pearl

Post by JordanMo on Fri Aug 25, 2017 4:12 pm

Described by eminent scholar Ian Bishop as the ‘’most highly wrought and intricately constructed poem in Middle English", the late 14th-century Middle English poem Pearl weaves together elements of dreamlike visions, medieval allegory, religious symbolism, and personal elegy, culminating in a complex narrative of mourning and concerns of faith whose genre is difficult to pin down. For the better part of the 20th century, it was commonplace for scholars to select one of the many attributes of the text and expound upon it in isolation, relying on it as a signifier for the meaning of the entire text, resulting in a variety of interpretations which were seldom reconcilable with one another. More recently, however, a marked move towards an attempted synthesis has been observed, with scholars such as J. Allan Mitchell and Elizabeth Salter exploring whether the so-called ‘elegy vs allegory’ dispute can be altogether avoided. By reading the text as both historical and spiritual, its characters both as figures and types, the argument is that we can reach an enhanced state of appreciation for the poem by allowing the two seemingly polarised sides of interpretation to complete one another. This position has drawn much criticism, however, from thinkers such as J. Allen Mitchell, who argues that Pearl defies harmonisation through typography or figuralism, and challenges the attempts to limit the text in temporality. Consequently, the question of the text’s genre remains mired in controversy.


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