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Allegory, allegorical interpretation, and literary experience : essays in criticism. Neufeldt, Jerry Donald

Abstract

The following thesis will focus on the close relation between allegory and interpretation. Because interpretation proceeds from, the viewpoint that the literary work is essentailly a statement about some aspect of experience, it attempts to reduce the literary work to an argumentative statement. This thesis will argue that interpretation is, therefore, a mode of allegorization. Following from the argument that interpretation is allegorization, this thesis will point to factors suggesting that the interpretive allegorical approach is antithetical to literary expression. Interpretation generally fails to recognize the distinction between philosophical discourse and literary expression, or between, the logic of discourse and the logic of narrative. Further, allegorization has a restrictive effect on literary expression, in that an interpretive framework limits the possibilities of the suggestive ramifications of the literary tale. The restrictive effect of allegorization can he related to sociological and cultural factors -- factors that often determine the direction of literary response. The Renaissances furnishes an example of allegorical criticism that interprets in order to see literary works in terms of the presiding cultural-philosophical system. Further, the example of the Renaissance suggests that we might look for a parallel in the conduct of modern criticism. Allegorization in moderm criticism can be seen in interpretations derived from Freudian, Marxist, or Christian Humanist viewpoints. This thesis will argue that such interpretive criticism begins from outside the literary work, for it sees the literary work in terms of the vocabulary of the critic's system. Examples of approaches to Moby Dick will be advanced as evidence of interpretation that results in allegorization. A further example of the way allegory guides the response of the reader can be seen in The Pilgrim’ s Progress. Chapters I and III will argue that we can distinguish between the tale and the allegory, and suggest that the presence of the allegorical guide can be traced to extra-literary motivations. Further, when we attempt to reconcile the tale and the allegory, we see more clearly the irrelevance of the allegorical framework. Satiric allegory, however, presents a unique problem in that allegory in satire is generally not obtrusive.. Chapter IV will point to factors, such as the satirist’ s viewpoint, that prohibit the allegory from becoming a restrictive framework, as is seem in satiric allegories such as Animal Farm and Brave New World. In opposition to the interpretive-allegorical approach this thesis will argue that the open response is more in keeping with the demands of the literary work. The freer and more contemplative attitude of the open response dispenses with the search for the hidden meanings of literary expression. Critics such as Kazin, Lawrence, Sontag, and Rahv point to the attitudes and practise of the anti-allegorical approach.

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