Literary personification has long been taken for granted as an important aspect of Western narrative; Paul de Man has given it still greater prominence as 'the master trope of poetic discourse'. James Paxson here offers a much-needed critical and theoretical appraisal of personification in the light of poststructuralist thought and theory. The poetics of personification provides a historical reassessment of early theories, together with a sustained account of how literary personification works through an examination of narratological and semiotic codes and structures in the allegorical texts of Prudentius, Chaucer, Langland and Spenser. The device turns out to be anything but an aberration, oddity or barbarism, from ancient, medieval or early modern literature. Rather, it works as a complex artistic tool for revealing and advertising the problems and limits inherent in narration in particular and poetic or verbal creation in general.