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allegory
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{{short description|Literary device}}{{for|the concept in mathematics|Allegory (mathematics)}}File:Pearl Poet.jpg|thumb|Pearl, miniature from Cotton Nero A.x. The Dreamer stands on the other side of the stream from the Pearl-maiden. Pearl is one of the greatest allegories from the High Middle AgesStephen A. Barney (1989). "Allegory". 0-684-16760-3}}As a literary device, an allegory is a metaphor in which a character, place or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. Allegory (in the sense of the practice and use of allegorical devices and works) has occurred widely throughout history in all forms of art, largely because it can readily illustrate or convey complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners.Writers or speakers typically use allegories as literary devices or as rhetorical devices that convey (semi-)hidden or complex meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, or events, which together create the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the author wishes to convey.WEB,weblink A, Literary Terms and Definitions, Carson-Newman University, Wheeler, L. Kip, 11 January 2018, Many allegories use personifications of abstract concepts.

Etymology

File:Salvator Rosa (Italian) - Allegory of Fortune - Google Art Project.jpg|thumbnail| Salvator Rosa: Allegory of Fortune, representing Fortuna, the goddess of luck, with the horn of plenty ]]File:Marco Marcola - Mitološka alegorija.jpg|thumb| (Marco Marcola]]: Mythological allegory)First attested in English in 1382, the word allegory comes from Latin allegoria, the latinisation of the Greek ἀλληγορία (allegoría), "veiled language, figurative"ἀλληγορία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library, which in turn comes from both ἄλλος (allos), "another, different"ἄλλος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library and ἀγορεύω (agoreuo), "to harangue, to speak in the assembly"ἀγορεύω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library, which originates from ἀγορά (agora), "assembly".ἀγορά, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, in the Perseus Digital Library.

Types

Northrop Frye discussed what he termed a "continuum of allegory", a spectrum that ranges from what he termed the "naive allegory" of The Faerie Queene, to the more private allegories of modern paradox literature.[Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1957. Print.] In this perspective, the characters in a "naive" allegory are not fully three-dimensional, for each aspect of their individual personalities and the events that befall them embodies some moral quality or other abstraction; the allegory has been selected first, and the details merely flesh it out.

Classical allegory

The origins of Allegory can be traced at least back to Homer in his "quasi-allegorical" use of personifications of, e.g., Terror (Deimos) and Fear (Phobos) at Il. 115 f. [Small, S. G. P. (1949). "On Allegory in Homer". The Classical Journal 44 (7): 423.] The title of "first allegorist," however, is usually awarded to whoever was the earliest to put forth allegorical interpretations of Homer. This approach leads to two possible answers: Theagenes of Rhegium (whom Porphyry calls the "first allegorist," Porph. Quaest. Hom. 1.240.14-241.12 Schrad.) or Pherecydes of Syros, both of whom are presumed to be active in the 6th century B.C.E., though Pherecydes is earlier and as he is often presumed to be the first writer of prose. The debate is complex, since it demands we observe the distinction between two often conflated uses of the Greek verb "allēgoreīn," which can mean both "to speak allegorically" and "to interpret allegorically." [Domaradzki, M. (2017). "The Beginnings of Greek Allegoresis". Classical World 110 (3):301] In the case of "interpreting allegorically," Theagenes appears to be our earliest example. Presumably in response to proto-philosophical moral critiques of Homer (e.g. Xenophanes fr. 11 Diels-Kranz [H. Diels and W. Kranz. (1951). Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. 1. 6th edn. Berlin: Weidmann, 126-138.]), Theagenes proposed symbolic interpretations whereby the Gods of the Iliad actually stood for physical elements. So, Hephestus represents Fire, for instance (for which see fr. A2 in Diels-Kranz [H. Diels and W. Kranz. (1951). Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. 1. 6th edn. Berlin: Weidmann, 51-52.]). Some scholars, however, argue that Pherecydes cosmogonic writings anticipated Theagenes allegorical work, illustrated especially by his early placement of Time (Chronos) in his genealogy of the gods, which is thought to be a reinterpretation of the titan Kronos, from more traditional genealogies.In classical literature two of the best-known allegories are the Cave in Plato's Republic (Book VII) and the story of the stomach and its members in the speech of Menenius Agrippa (Livy ii. 32). Among the best-known examples of allegory, Plato's Allegory of the Cave, forms a part of his larger work The Republic. In this allegory, Plato describes a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall (514a–b). The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows, using language to identify their world (514c–515a). According to the allegory, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality, until one of them finds his way into the outside world where he sees the actual objects that produced the shadows. He tries to tell the people in the cave of his discovery, but they do not believe him and vehemently resist his efforts to free them so they can see for themselves (516e–518a). This allegory is, on a basic level, about a philosopher who upon finding greater knowledge outside the cave of human understanding, seeks to share it as is his duty, and the foolishness of those who would ignore him because they think themselves educated enough.JOURNAL, Elliott, R. K., 1967, Socrates and Plato's Cave, Kant-Studien, 58, 2, 138, 10.1515/kant.1967.58.1-4.137, In Late Antiquity Martianus Capella organized all the information a fifth-century upper-class male needed to know into an allegory of the wedding of Mercury and Philologia, with the seven liberal arts the young man needed to know as guests.[Capella, Martianus, William Harris. Stahl, Richard Johnson, and E. L. Burge. The Marriage of Philology and Mercury. New York: Columbia UP, 1977. Print.]

Biblical allegory

Other early allegories are found in the Hebrew Bible, such as the extended metaphor in Psalm 80 of the Vine and its impressive spread and growth, representing Israel's conquest and peopling of the Promised Land.BOOK, Kennedy, George A., 1999, Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times, 2nd, UNC Press, 142, 0-8078-4769-0,weblink 7 August 2009, Also allegorical is Ezekiel 16 and 17, wherein the capture of that same vine by the mighty Eagle represents Israel's exile to Babylon.BOOK, Jones, Alexander, 1968, The Jerusalem Bible, Reader's, Doubleday & Company, 1186, 1189, 0-385-01156-3, Allegorical interpretation of the Bible was a common early Christian practice and continues. For example, the recently re-discovered IVth Commentary on the Gospels by Fortunatianus of Aquileia has a comment by its English translator: "The principal characteristic of Fortunatianus’ exegesis is a figurative approach, relying on a set of concepts associated with key terms in order to create an allegorical decoding of the text." (pXIX)

Medieval allegory

File:British School 17th century - Portrait of a Lady, Called Elizabeth, Lady Tanfield - Google Art Project.jpg|thumbnail| British School 17th century – Portrait of a Lady, Called Elizabeth, Lady Tanfield. Sometimes the meaning of an allegory can be lost, even if art historians suspect that the artwork is an allegory of some kind.WEB,weblink ArtFund.org, Portrait of a Lady, Called Elizabeth, Lady Tanfield by Unknown Artist, Art Fund, ]]Allegory has an ability to freeze the temporality of a story, while infusing it with a spiritual context. Mediaeval thinking accepted allegory as having a reality underlying any rhetorical or fictional uses. The allegory was as true as the facts of surface appearances. Thus, the Papal Bull Unam Sanctam (1302) presents themes of the unity of Christendom with the pope as its head in which the allegorical details of the metaphors are adduced as facts on which is based a demonstration with the vocabulary of logic: "Therefore of this one and only Church there is one body and one head—not two heads as if it were a monster... If, then, the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ." This text also demonstrates the frequent use of allegory in religious texts during the Mediaeval Period, following the tradition and example of the Bible.In the late 15th century, the enigmatic Hypnerotomachia, with its elaborate woodcut illustrations, shows the influence of themed pageants and masques on contemporary allegorical representation, as humanist dialectic conveyed them.The denial of medieval allegory as found in the 12th-century works of Hugh of St Victor and Edward Topsell's Historie of Foure-footed Beastes (London, 1607, 1653) and its replacement in the study of nature with methods of categorisation and mathematics by such figures as naturalist John Ray and the astronomer Galileo is thought to mark the beginnings of early modern science.BOOK, Peter Harrison (historian), Harrison, Peter, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science, Cambridge University Press, 0-521-59196-1, 1–10, Introduction, 2001,

Modern allegory

Since meaningful stories are nearly always applicable to larger issues, allegories may be read into many stories which the author may not have recognised. This is allegoresis, or the act of reading a story as an allegory. Examples of allegory in popular culture that may or may not have been intended include the works of Bertolt Brecht, and even some works of science fiction and fantasy, such as The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.The story of the apple falling onto Isaac Newton's head is another famous allegory. It simplified the idea of gravity by depicting a simple way it was supposedly discovered. It also made the scientific revelation well known by condensing the theory into a short tale.WEB, Revised Memoir of Newton (Normalized Version),weblink The Newton Project, 13 March 2017,

Poetry and fiction

File:Allegory of Arithmetic - detail.JPG|thumb|Detail of Laurent de La HyreLaurent de La HyreIt is important to note that while allegoresis may make discovery of allegory in any work, not every resonant work of modern fiction is allegorical, and some are clearly not intended to be viewed this way. According to Henry Littlefield's 1964 article, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, may be readily understood as a plot-driven fantasy narrative in an extended fable with talking animals and broadly sketched characters, intended to discuss the politics of the time.[Littlefield, Henry (1964). "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism". American Quarterly, 16 (1): 47–58. {{doi|10.2307/2710826}}.] Yet, George MacDonald emphasised in 1893 that "A fairy tale is not an allegory."BOOK, L. Frank, Baum, L. Frank Baum, The Annotated Wizard of Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,weblink 2000, Norton, 978-0-393-04992-3, 101, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is another example of a well-known work mistakenly perceived as allegorical, as the author himself once stated, "...I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author."BOOK, Janice M., Bogstad, Philip E., Kaveny, Picturing Tolkien: Essays on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy,weblink 9 August 2011, McFarland, 978-0-7864-8473-7, 189, Tolkien specifically resented the suggestion that the book's One Ring, which gives overwhelming power to those possessing it, was intended as an allegory of nuclear weapons. He noted that, had that been his intention, the book would not have ended with the Ring being destroyed but rather with an arms race in which various powers would try to obtain such a Ring for themselves. Then Tolkien went on to outline an alternative plot for "Lord of The Rings", as it would have been written had such an allegory been intended, and which would have made the book into a dystopia. While all this does not mean Tolkien's works may not be treated as having allegorical themes, especially when reinterpreted through postmodern sensibilities, it at least suggests that none were conscious in his writings. This further reinforces the idea of forced allegoresis, as allegory is often a matter of interpretation and only sometimes of original artistic intention.Like allegorical stories, allegorical poetry has two meanings – a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.Some unique specimens of allegory can be found in the following works:

Art

Some elaborate and successful specimens of allegory are to be found in the following works, arranged in approximate chronological order:

Gallery

File:Melencolia I (Durero).jpg|Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I (1514): Unused tools, an hourglass, an empty scale surround a female personification, with other esoteric and exoteric symbols.File:Angelo Bronzino - Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time - National Gallery, London.jpg|Bronzino, Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time (c. 1545): The deities of love are surrounded by personifications of (probably) Time (a bald, man with angry eyes), Folly (the young woman-demon on the right, possibly also so old woman on the left), and others.File:Titian - Allegorie der Zeit.jpg|Titian, Allegory of Prudence (c. 1565–1570): The three human heads symbolise past, present and future, the characterisation of which is furthered by the triple-headed beast (wolf, lion, dog), girded by the body of a big snake.File:Elizabeth-I-Allegorical-Po.jpg|The English School's Allegory of Queen Elizabeth (c. 1610), with Father Time at her right and Death looking over her left shoulder. Two cherubs are removing the weighty crown from her tired head.File:Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) - Artemisia Gentileschi.jpg|Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (c. 1638–39)File:Jan Vermeer - The Art of Painting - Google Art Project.jpg|Jan Vermeer, The Art of Painting (c. 1666): Painting is shown as related to history and politics, the young woman being Clio, the muse of history, and other symbols for the political and religious division of the Netherlands appearing.File:Kessel, Jan van Sr. - Allegory of Hearing.JPG|Jan van Kessel, Allegory of Hearing (17th century): Diverse sources of sound, especially instruments serve as allegorical symbols.

See also

References

{{Reflist}}

Further reading

External links

{{Commons category|Allegories}} {{Narrative modes}}{{Authority control}}

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