Exegesis, Form, and Vernacular Translation in Pearl

David K. Coley

Abstract


Written towards the close of the fourteenth century, the Middle English Pearl has attracted considerable scholarly attention both for its intricate poetic form and for its purchase in late-medieval devotional culture. This essay shows how Pearl's form is, in fact, a crucial aspect of its exegetical programme, proposing that the poem mobilizes its signature aesthetic and poetic structures towards an ongoing process of informal biblical hermeneutics. It also reveals how Pearl engages, albeit somewhat obliquely, with the controversies over biblical translation occasioned by late-medieval lay demands for increasingly personal forms of devotion and, more specifically, by Wycliffite efforts at biblical translation.