Abstract

This article examines the Pearl-poem for its anticipation and regulation of reader response. The poet constructs a visionary world just on the cusp of revelation and as such provides the reader the opportunity to finish the vision when the Dreamer wakes. Pearl is a kind of self-contained gem, complete and wholly enticing. However, the Dreamer's inability to understand and the author's apparent powerlessness to produce a perfect form have driven some critics to see the poem as the sum of its failures. These “flaws” in form and character are better understood as authorial strategies to activate and regulate the reader's response. This article suggests that the author purposefully constructed Pearl at the point of near completion to allow the reader to finish the vision in controlled, and orthodox, ways. The Pearl-poet manages this by exploiting the reader's expectations for a visionary text.

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