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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The nature of allegory : spatial tropes in medieval and early modern allegorical narratives Bergen, Richard Angelo


This dissertation offers an analysis of spatial tropes, amounting to an explication of geographic symbolism in allegorical narratives. In the past, the genre-defining trope of allegory has overwhelmingly been personification, which involves metaphors of psychic interiority or abstraction made into characters. However, topographical metaphors are at least as frequent and arguably as prominent in these stories. If allegory is best defined as extended metaphor, the key trope of these stories involves spatial extension for the metaphor of the way or the road in these narratives, with their various sites of instruction and conflict. This work of research proposes and analyzes seven morphogenetic topologies in allegorical narratives: 1) the use of abstract labels for places, 2) distribution of the fragments of a self throughout a series of places indicating psychic inflection in landscape, 3) references to the “book of nature” in tandem with narrative moments or digressions for the application of hermeneutical methods to topographical structures, 4) indexical symmetries or contraventions of normal spatial scale (mimesis), 5) the tying of abstract topic to differentiated topography, 6) the embodiment in space of significative temporalities, 7) and spatial disorientation vis-à-vis gestures toward a sub specie aeternitatis. The basis for these tropes can be found in habits of mind developed in allegorical interpretations of epics and the Bible, cosmological encyclopedias and medieval works of De Natura Rerum, as well as arts of memory. This dissertation also aims to show that although allegorical works constantly subvert “realism”, they still reveal intense interest in “local”, “literal”, and “historical” concerns of a topographical or architectural nature. A majority of the analysis of this dissertation is done in primary consideration of several key authors (William Langland, Stephen Hawes, Edmund Spenser, and John Bunyan), whose works represent different instantiations of allegory in the Late Medieval and Early Modern eras.

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Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International