Marco Nievergelt

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2015/2016
discipline Literature
Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Warwick

Research project

Allegory as Epistemology


The project examines how late medieval dream-poetry could provide a powerful means for exploring a set of closely related epistemological questions through allegorical narrative. My analysis focuses primarily on three very popular and influential literary texts from the later Middle Ages, two in French and one in English: Jean de Meun’s Roman de la Rose (ca. 1269–78), the two versions of Guillaume de Deguileville’s Pèlerinage de Vie Humaine (1331 and 1355), and William Langland’s vision of Piers Plowman in its 4 extant versions (ca. 1360–90). All three poems provide extended first-person accounts of quest narratives framed as dream visions, and respond to major shifts in scholastic philosophy occurring during the thirteenth century, specifically in the areas of philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. The first aim of the project is to explore the neglected question of how the two French allegories shape Langland’s poetic project and its evolution over time, with specific attention to Langland’s interest in processes of human knowledge. A second, related aim of the project is to contribute to our understanding of the larger question of the ‘philosophical’ uses of allegorical poetry, specifically its ability to address cognitive matters. While such allegorical poetry clearly responds to Latin, academic discourses on knowledge, it is highly reductive to see this poetry as merely ‘applying’ the ready-made philosophical formulations of scholasticism. Instead I suggest that allegorical poetry also articulates a different, distinctive and more experiential kind of philosophical discourse about cognition, essentially cast in the form of a first-person narrative account of a fictional experience of vision.




Marco Nievergelt holds a Dphil in English from the University of Oxford, and is currently Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies in theUniversity of Warwick. He was previeously SNF Research Fellow in the English Department at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. He specialises in late medieval and early modern literature, English and French. His research interests include the following areas: allegory, medieval and modern; medieval theories of signification, perception and interpretation; the interactions between scholastic philosophy and literature in the later Middle Ages; the reception and translation of continental literature, particularly French, in England; chivalric literature and romances; late medieval crusading and ideas of holy war; the history of (textual) subjectivity and self-representation. 

Selected publications


‘The Place of Emotion: Space, Silence and Interiority in the Stanzaic Morte Arthure’, Arthurian Literature, vol. 32, 2015, pp. 31-58.


‘Siege Literature : English Identity, Beleaguered Christianity and Holy War during the Great Papal Schism', Chaucer Review, vol. 49, no. 4, 2015, pp. 402-426.


'Invisible Itineraries: The textual wanderings of Guillaume Deguileville’s Pèlerinage de Vie Humaine in Sixteenth-Century England and Europe’, in U. Peters and A. Kablitz (eds), Mittelalterliche Textualität als Retextualisierung: Das Textcorpus de 'Pèlerinage de la vie humaine' im europäischen Mittelalter des 14. bis 16. Jahrhunderts, Winter Verlag, 2014, pp. 721-746.


The ‘Pèlerinage’-Allegories of Guillaume de Deguileville: Tradition, Authority and Influence, with S. A.V.G. Kamath (eds), D.S. Brewer, Cambridge, 2013.


Allegorical Quests from Deguileville to Spenser, D.S. Brewer, Cambridge, 2012.


‘The Quest for Knighthood in the Waning Middle Ages: the Wanderings of Olivier de la Marche and René d’Anjou’, Fifteenth Century Studies, vol. 36, 2011, pp. 137-167.


‘Francis Drake: Merchant, Knight and Pilgrim’, Renaissance Studies, vol. 23, no. 1, 2009, pp. 53-57.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Sociology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Anthropology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Urban Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline French Literature