Influences of fourteenth century skepticism on literary structure in the poetry of Langland and Chaucer : a comparative study



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Fourteenth century thought in England was characterized by an attitude of skepticism which is reflected in tho poetry of Langland and Chaucer, who both deal explicitly with the major theological and philosophical issues which Hilliam of Ockham's nominalist epistemology had made highly controversial. These issues centered around questions pertaining to tho relation between faith and reason, the ability of God to foresee and preordain the future, and tho relative validities of different; sources of natural and supernatural knowledge. Although Langland and Chaucer make these questions the subject matter of much of their poetry, their underlying pootic approaches to them are quite different. Langland strives implicitly to show that the realms of faith and reason are joined in a unified epistemological system, while Chaucer does not attempt to join the two realms; in fact, he uses a variety of structural devices to emphasize the gulf between them. The difference between these underlying approaches suggests a difference in the way in which Langland and Chaucer view the poet's, role. For Langland the poet's imagination seemingly can bridge the gap between reason and faith, whereas for Chaucer the realm of faith remains completely inaccessible to human reason even in its most imaginative aspect.