9628 - Allegory - Taken etymologically, allegory is other-speaking, and its discourse rooted in the Greek verbs "to speak in the agora" and "to gather". While spoken in public in the market place, allegory would communicate its message only indirectly. The "other" of its speech held in reserve: hinted at, but never directly revealed; it is a cryptic content that can only be known through the mediation of conceptual schemes and after a period of reflection (as opposed to the intuitive immediacy that underwrites the romantic notion of the symbol). In allegory, moreover, particulars are given and gain meaningful order when organized into a constellation of signs that, in semiotic terms, may bear no necessary relationship to their signifieds.
While the study of allegory is periodically rehabilitated (most recently by deManian deconstruction, Benjamin scholarship, and by work on postmodernism), it has also long been characterized as me‐chanical, coldly rational, and unpoetic. Benedetto Croce, for example, maligned it as “art aping sci‐ence,” while Cleanth Brooks, who is typical of the New Critics in this regard, dismissed it as “propa‐ganda.” As a consequence, its long history is often ignored. This seminar offers an account – albeit par‐tial – of the fate of allegory in the West. It opens with a consideration of Erich Auerbach and then turns its attention to the ancient backgrounds of allegory: the Derveni papyrus followed by Porphyry, a Neo‐platonist interpreter of Homer, who read the Odyssey as a dark portent of a secret doctrine, as a coded microcosm cryptically alluding to the macrocosm of spirit. The course then goes on to consider the fea‐tures of allegory from the early Middle Ages to Postmodernism.
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