After a long period of neglect and even disdain, allegory and myth in the broadest sense are coming again into their own as central tools to the understanding of literary art. The essays in this volume, ranging in time from the Middle Ages to the present and in subject from poetry to philosophy, explore the multiple interpretations of allegory, as well as the important distinctions among allegory, myth, and symbol.
Besides assisting in the understanding of particular literary works and authors, this book makes a worthy contribution to comprehension of the major role allegory plays in literature and indeed in life.
Among the nineteen essays are “‘Awaking Dream’: The Symbolic Alternative to Allegory,” by Murray Krieger; “The Modern Revival of Myth,” by James Engell; “The Two Allegories,” by J. Hillis Miller; “The ‘Rhythm of Metaphor’: Yeats, Pound, Eliot and the Unity of Image in Postsymbolist Poetry,” by Ronald Bush; and “Sartor Resartus and the Inverse Sublime: The Art of Humorous Deconstruction,” by Peter Allan Dale.
This work offers the first systematic and interdisciplinary study of the poetics of the twelfth-century medieval Greek novel. This book investigates the complex ways in which rhetorical theory and practice constructed the overarching cultural aesthetics that conditioned the production and reception of the genre of the novel in twelfth-century Byzantine society. By examining the indigenous rhetorical concept of amphoteroglossia, this book probes unexplored aspects of the re-inscription of inherited allegorical, comic, and rhetorical modes in the Komnenian novels, and offers new methodological directions for the study of Byzantine secular literature in its cultural complexities. The creative re-appropriation of the established generic conventions of the ancient Greek novel by the medieval Greek novelists, it is argued in this wide-ranging study, has invested these works with a dynamic dialogism. In this book, Roilos shows that this interdiscursivity functions on two pivotal axes: on the paradigmatic axis of previously sanctioned ancient Greek and--less evidently but equally significantly--Christian literature, and on the syntagmatic axis of allusions to the broader twelfth-century Byzantine cultural context.
In medieval allegory, Body and Soul were often pitted against one another in debate. In Body Against Soul: Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory, Masha Raskolnikov argues that such debates function as a mode of thinking about psychology, gender, and power in the Middle Ages. Neither theological nor medical in nature, works of sowlehele (“soul-heal”) described the self to itself in everyday language—moderns might call this kind of writing “self-help.” Bringing together contemporary feminist and queer theory along with medieval psychological thought, Body Against Soul examines Piers Plowman, the “Katherine Group,” and the history of psychological allegory and debate. In so doing, it rewrites the history of the Body to include its recently neglected fellow, the Soul.
The topic of this book is one that runs through all of Western history and remains of primary interest to modern theorists—how “my” body relates to “me.” In the allegorical tradition traced by this study, a male person could imagine himself as a being populated by female personifications, because Latin and Romance languages tended to gender abstract nouns as female. However, since Middle English had ceased to inflect abstract nouns as male or female, writers were free to gender abstractions like “Will” or “Reason” any way they liked. This permitted some psychological allegories to avoid the representational tension caused by placing a female soul inside a male body, instead creating surprisingly queer same-sex inner worlds. The didactic intent driving sowlehele is, it turns out, complicated by the erotics of the struggle to establish a hierarchy of the self’s inner powers.
Dancing the Dharma examines the theory and practice of allegory by exploring a select group of medieval Japanese noh plays and treatises. Susan Blakeley Klein demonstrates how medieval esoteric commentaries on the tenth-century poem-tale Ise monogatari (Tales of Ise) and the first imperial waka poetry anthology Kokin wakashū influenced the plots, characters, imagery, and rhetorical structure of seven plays (Maiguruma, Kuzu no hakama, Unrin’in, Oshio, Kakitsubata, Ominameshi, and Haku Rakuten) and two treatises (Zeami’s Rikugi and Zenchiku’s Meishukushū). In so doing, she shows that it was precisely the allegorical mode—vital to medieval Japanese culture as a whole—that enabled the complex layering of character and poetic landscape we typically associate with noh. Klein argues that understanding noh’s allegorical structure and paying attention to the localized historical context for individual plays are key to recovering their original function as political and religious allegories. Now viewed in the context of contemporaneous beliefs and practices of the medieval period, noh plays take on a greater range and depth of meaning and offer new insights to readers today into medieval Japan.
Dark Conceit is the first book in English to treat allegory seriously in terms of literary creation and criticism. The study explores the methods and ideas that go into the making of allegory, discusses the misconceptions that have obscured the subject, and surveys the changing concept of allegory. The greater part of the book concerns the typical features of allegorical fiction, focusing on a group of Romantic and contemporary writers, including Melville, Hawthorne, and Kafka, who continue the allegorical tradition in literature. Such writers, along with Lawrence, James, and Joyce, are taken to be the modern counterparts to an earlier group of pastoral, evangelical, and satirical writers represented by Spenser, Bunyan, and Swift. Honig’s thesis is that literary allegory, while symbolic in method, is realistic in aim. Its very power lies in its giving proof to the physical and ethical realities of life objectively conceived.
This book follows the interplay between allegory and physics in Europe from the inception of the laws of thermodynamics in the 1850s to the cultural acceptance of the theory of relativity in the 1920s. Bruce Clarke delves into the cultural poetics of this emergence, as well as using allegory theory to link the literature of that era to the consolidation of modern physics in England. In his examination of these correlating topics the author displays not only an impressive grasp on the scientific climate of that era, but also comprehensive knowledge of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature.
The book begins with an overview of the interconnections between allegory in literature and allegory in science, then analyzes the interaction between energy and entropy and their personification in the literature of the times. Energy Forms draws on the writing of well-known literary and scientific authors including H. G. Wells, Camille Flammarion, Charles Howard Hinton and D. H. Lawrence, among others. The focus then shifts to the broad cultural tension between thermodynamic malaise and electromagnetic aspiration. Energy Forms uncovers the works of important but overlooked authors in the fields of science and literature and will appeal especially to those who are intrigued by interdisciplinary studies.
Bruce Clarke is Professor of English,Texas Tech University. He is the author of Dora Marsden and Early Modernism: Gender, Individualism, Science; Allegories of Writing: The Subject of Metamorphosis; and editor of The Body and the Text: Comparative Essays in Literature and Medicine.
In Forgotten Paths, Davide Del Bello draws on the insights of Giambattista Vico and examines exemplary texts from classical, medieval, and Renaissance culture with the intent to trace the links between etymological and allegorical ways of knowing, writing, thinking, and arguing
This study explains how the myths of Greece and Rome were transmitted from antiquity to the Renaissance. Luc Brisson argues that philosophy was ironically responsible for saving myth from historical annihilation. Although philosophy was initially critical of myth because it could not be declared true or false and because it was inferior to argumentation, mythology was progressively reincorporated into philosophy through allegorical exegesis. Brisson shows to what degree allegory was employed among philosophers and how it enabled myth to take on a number of different interpretive systems throughout the centuries: moral, physical, psychological, political, and even metaphysical.
How Philosophers Saved Myths also describes how, during the first years of the modern era, allegory followed a more religious path, which was to assume a larger role in Neoplatonism. Ultimately, Brisson explains how this embrace of myth was carried forward by Byzantine thinkers and artists throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance; after the triumph of Chistianity, Brisson argues, myths no longer had to agree with just history and philosophy but the dogmas of the Church as well.
Literal Figures is the most important work on John Bunyan to appear in many years, and a significant contribution to the history and theory of representation. Beginning with mainstream Puritan responses to a challenge to orthodoxy—a man who claims he has been literally transformed into Christ and his companion who claims to be the "Spouse of Christ"—and concluding with an analysis of The Pilgrim's Progress, which John Bunyan described as a "fall into Allegory," Thomas Luxon presents detailed analyses of key moments in the Reformation crisis of representation.
Why did Puritan Christianity repeatedly turn to allegorical forms of representation in spite of its own intolerance of "Allegorical fancies?" Luxon demonstrates that Protestant doctrine itself was a kind of allegory in hiding, one that enabled Puritans to forge a figural view of reality while championing the "literal" and the "historical". He argues that for Puritanism to survive its own literalistic, anti-symbolic, and millenarian challenges, a "fall" back into allegory was inevitable. Representative of this "fall," The Pilgrim's Progress marks the culminating moment at which the Reformation's war against allegory turns upon itself. An essential work for understanding both the history and theory of representation and the work of John Bunyan, Literal Figures skillfully blends historical and critical methods to describe the most important features of early modern Protestant and Puritan culture.
In this study of modernist aesthetics, Beryl Schlossman reveals how for such writers as Marcel Proust, Gustave Flaubert, and Charles Baudelaire, the Orient came to symbolize the highest aspirations of literary representation. She demonstrates that through allegory, modernism became a style itself, a style that married the ancient and the modern and that emerged as both a cause and an effect, both an ideal construct and an textual materiality, all symbolized by the Orient—land of style, place of plurality, and site of the coexistence of holy lands. Toward the end of Remembrance of Things Past, the narrator describes the act of creating a work of art as a conversion of sensation into a spiritual equivalent. By means of such allegories of “conversion,” Schlossman shows, the modernist artist disappeared within the work of art and left behind the trace of his sublime vocation, a vocation in which he was transformed, in Schlossman’s words, “into a kind of priest kneeling at the altar of beauty before the masked divinity of representation.” The author shows how allegory—the representation of the symbolic as something real—was adapted by modernist writers to reflect subjectivity while masking an authorial origin. She reveals how modernist allegory arose, as Walter Benjamin suggests, at the crossroads of history, sociology, economics, urban architecture, and art—providing a kind of map of capitalism—and was produced through the eyes of a melancholic gazing at a “monument of absence.”
In this reexamination of the allegorical dimensions of Paradise Lost, Catherine Martin presents Milton’s poem as a prophecy foretelling the end of one culture and its replacement by another. She argues that rather than merely extending the allegorical tradition as defined by Augustine, Dante, and Spenser, Milton has written a meta-allegory that stages a confrontation with an allegorical formalism that is either dead or no longer philosophically viable. By both critiquing and recasting the traditional form, Milton describes the transition to a new epoch that promises the possibility of human redemption in history. Martin shows how Paradise Lost, written at the threshold of the enormous imaginative shift that accompanied the Protestant, scientific, and political revolutions of the seventeenth century, conforms to a prophetic baroque model of allegory similar to that outlined by Walter Benjamin. As she demonstrates, Milton’s experimentation with baroque forms radically reformulates classical epic, medieval romance, and Spenserian allegory to allow for both a naturalistic, empirically responsible understanding of the universe and for an infinite and incomprehensible God. In this way, the resulting poetic world of Paradise Lost is like Milton’s God, an allegorical “ruin” in which the divine is preserved but at the price of a loss of certainty. Also, as Martin suggests, the poem affirmatively anticipates modernity by placing the chief hope of human progress in the fully self-authored subject. Maintaining a dialogue with a critical tradition that extends from Johnson and Coleridge to the best contemporary Milton scholarship, Martin sets Paradise Lost in both the early modern and the postmodern worlds. Ruins of Allegory will greatly interest all Milton scholars, as well as students of literary criticism and early modern studies.
In The Ruling Passion, Christopher Lane examines the relationship between masculinity, homosexual desire, and empire in British colonialist and imperialist fictions at the turn of the twentieth century. Questioning the popular assumption that Britain’s empire functioned with symbolic efficiency on sublimated desire, this book presents a counterhistory of the empire’s many layers of conflict and ambivalence. Through attentive readings of sexual and political allegory in the work of Kipling, Forster, James, Beerbohm, Firbank, and others—and deft use of psychoanalytic theory—The Ruling Passion interprets turbulent scenes of masculine identification and pleasure, power and mastery, intimacy and antagonism. By foregrounding the shattering effects of male homosexuality and interracial desire, and by insisting on the centrality of unconscious fantasy and the death drive, The Ruling Passion examines the startling recurrence of colonial failure in narratives of symbolic doubt and ontological crisis. Lane argues compellingly that Britain can progress culturally and politically only when it has relinquished its residual fantasies of global mastery.
Gordon Teskey Harvard University Press, 2019 Library of Congress PR2358.T47 2019 | Dewey Decimal 821.3
From the distinguished literary scholar Gordon Teskey comes an essay collection that restores Spenser to his rightful prominence in Renaissance studies, opening up the epic of The Faerie Queene as a grand, improvisatory project on human nature, and arguing—controversially—that it is Spenser, not Milton, who is the more important and relevant poet for the modern world.
There is more adventure in The Faerie Queene than in any other major English poem. But the epic of Arthurian knights, ladies, and dragons in Faerie Land, beloved by C. S. Lewis, is often regarded as quaint and obscure, and few critics have analyzed the poem as an experiment in open thinking. In this remarkable collection, the renowned literary scholar Gordon Teskey examines the masterwork with care and imagination, explaining the theory of allegory—now and in Edmund Spenser’s Elizabethan age—and illuminating the poem’s improvisatory moments as it embarks upon fairy tale, myth, and enchantment.
Milton, often considered the greatest English poet after Shakespeare, called Spenser his “original.” But Teskey argues that while Milton’s rigid ideology in Paradise Lost has failed the test of time, Spenser’s allegory invites engagement on contemporary terms ranging from power, gender, violence, and virtue ethics, to mobility, the posthuman, and the future of the planet. The Faerie Queene was unfinished when Spenser died in his forties. It is the brilliant work of a poet of youthful energy and philosophical vision who opens up new questions instead of answering old ones. The epic’s grand finale, “The Mutabilitie Cantos,” delivers a vision of human life as dizzyingly turbulent and constantly changing, leaving a future open to everything.
In The Troubled Union: Expansionist Imperatives in Post-Reconstruction American Novels, John Morán González traces the imperialist imaginings behind literary efforts to reunite the United States after the trauma of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This innovative study explores how the U.S. historical romance attempted to rebuild a national identity by renovating Manifest Destiny for the twentieth-century imperialist future through courtship and marriage plots. Yet even as these literary romances promised expansive national futures, the racial and gender contradictions of U.S. democracy threatened to result in troubled unions at home and fractious ventures abroad. Canonical authors such as Henry James, popular authors such as Helen Hunt Jackson, and rediscovered authors such as María Amparo Ruiz de Burton provide the dramatic narratives examined in this book.
Employing theoretical perspectives drawn from American Studies and Latin American Studies, González highlights the importance of the “domestic”—understood as both the domestic boundaries of the nation and of the home—as a key site within civil society that maintained and renewed imperialist national subjectivities. The Troubled Union combines the formal analysis of literary genre with interdisciplinary cultural studies to elucidate just how the imperial national allegory deeply structured the U.S. cultural imagination of the late nineteenth century.
In The Vitality of Allegory Gary Johnson argues that the rumors of allegory’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Surveying the broad landscape of modern and contemporary narrative fiction, including works from Europe, Africa, and North America, Johnson demonstrates that, although wholly allegorical narratives have become relatively rare, allegory itself remains a vibrant presence in the ongoing life of the novel, a presence that can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
Working from the premise that conventional conceptions of allegory have been inadequate, Johnson takes a rhetorical approach, defining allegory as the transformation of some phenomenon into a figural narrative for some larger purpose. This reconception allows us to recognize that allegory can govern a whole narrative—and can do so strongly or weakly—or be an embedded part or a thematic subject of a narrative and that it can even be used ironically. By developing these theoretical points through careful and insightful analysis of works such as Jackson’s “The Lottery,” Orwell’s Animal Farm, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and The Trial, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Roth’s American Pastoral, Mann’s Death in Venice, Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and several works by John Barth, Johnson himself transforms our understanding of allegory and of the history of the modern and contemporary novel.