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Pagans and PhilosophersThe Problem of Paganism from Augustine to Leibniz$
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John Marenbon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691142555

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691142555.001.0001

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Langland and Chaucer

Langland and Chaucer

(p.214) Chapter 11 Langland and Chaucer
Pagans and Philosophers

John Marenbon

Princeton University Press

This chapter turns to another pair struggling with the Problem of Paganism: William Langland and Geoffrey Chaucer. For Langland, the Problem is an issue addressed directly, with the focus on the salvation of virtuous pagans. But, despite the explicit doctrinal discussion, Langland is not simply doing the same thing in vernacular verse as the university theologians: the complex form of his poem makes the positions he takes less clearly defined, but allows him to adumbrate daring ideas outside the range of the scholastic discussions. By contrast, Chaucer avoids the theological problems almost entirely; more perhaps than any other medieval writer, he explores the Problem of Paganism by imagining himself within a pagan world, whilst aware, as his readers too would be, that there is an external Christian perspective on it, which is only partly accessible from his viewpoint on the inside.

Keywords:   William Langland, Geoffrey Chaucer, salvation, virtuous pagans, theological problems, Problem of Paganism, English poets

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