Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature

Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature

Brenda Machosky
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature
    Book Description:

    Taking a phenomenological approach to allegory, Structures of Appearing seeks to revise the history of aesthetics, identifying it as an ideology that has long subjugated art to philosophical criteria of judgment. Rather than being a mere signifying device, allegory is the structure by which something appears that cannot otherwise appear. It thus supports the appearance and necessary experience of philosophical ideas that are otherwise impossible to present or represent. Allegory is as central to philosophy as it is to literature. Following suggestions by Walter Benjamin, Machosky argues that allegory itself must appear allegorically and thus cannot be forced into a logos-centric metaphysical system. She builds on the work of Maurice Blanchot and Emmanuel Levinas to argue that the allegorical image is not a likeness to anything, not a subjective reflection, but an absolute otherness that becomes accessible by virtue of its unique structure. Allegory thus makes possible not merely the textual work of literature but the work that literature is. Machosky develops this insight in readings of Prudentius, Dante, Spenser, Hegel, Goethe, and Kafka.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4848-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: A Phenomenological Approach to Allegory
    (pp. 1-27)

    There is general agreement that the termallegoryrefers to a way of saying or showing one thing and meaning another. This very definition reveals the particular phenomenology of allegory, an artistic or poetic structure in which some “other thing” appears in the “thing appearing” without being the same thing. Allegory can be defined more specifically as “the appearance of one thing in another thing which it is not.” Traditionally understood as a structure of meaning, allegory has a limited range, and critics of this mode are correct that it can be a facile, if at times fascinating, signifying structure....

  5. 1. Face Off: The Allegorical Image and Aesthetics
    (pp. 28-63)

    Literary scholars have long been duped by the defensive posture initiated by the ironic Greek philosopher who dismissed poetry from the realm of thought and the ideal Republic. Between the philosopher-guardian and the poet, Plato presents a long list of craftsmen, each providing a specific product for the needs of the community. When he gets to the poet, however, “someone who has the skill to transform himself into all sorts of characters and to represent all sorts of things,” Plato declares that the community will politely send him packing, telling the poet that “he and his kind have no place...

  6. 2 A Phenomenological Reduction: Allegory in Prudentius’ Psychomachia
    (pp. 64-94)

    As a trope,allegoriaseems to have appeared either at the beginning of the Common Era or a few centuries prior to that time.² The first known use of allegorical interpretation was also near the beginning of the Common Era, although the technique had been applied to the Homeric poems at least as early as the sixth century BCE, under the rubrichyponoia(Whitman,Allegory265). At the end of the fourth century CE, allegory became particularly Christian, both as a trope and as an interpretive device. Augustine developed the Christian allegorical form of typology, and the poet Prudentius composed...

  7. 3 The Changing Faces of Allegory: Dante and Spenser
    (pp. 95-127)

    In book 10 ofThe Republic, the philosopher accuses the poet of simply turning a mirror that reflects the empirical world, which is itself a mere reflection of an ideal world. In chapter 1 I argued that it is the philosopher who should stand accused of “knowing nothing but how to imitate, to lay on with words and phrases … in such fashion that others, equally ignorant, who see things only through words, will deem his words most excellent” (Republic599e). The phraseequally ignorantironically suggests Socrates’ position. Over and over again in the dialogues, Socrates claims his own...

  8. 4 The Allegorical Structure of Phenomenology of Spirit
    (pp. 128-154)

    The name of Hegel is a mighty invocation for philosophy. A model of rigor, and from start to finish grounded inWissenschaft(science), Hegel’s philosophy has infiltrated far corners of the globe. Although often disputed, Hegel’s judgments are not easily dismissed. Nonetheless, as Paul de Man astutely observed about Hegel’s influence, “Few thinkers have so many disciples who never read a word of their master’s writings” (“Sign and Symbol” 93).³ Early in his career, Karl Marx expressed a similar sentiment with regard to the Young Hegelians of his time. Hegelians have used Hegel with great effect, often, as Marx observed...

  9. 5 Reconsidering Allegory and Symbol: Benjamin and Goethe
    (pp. 155-180)

    In the “Epistemo-Critical Prologue” toThe Origin of the German Tragic Drama, Benjamin establishes allegory in a realm out of the reach of aesthetics and idealism. Allegory is characterized by violence and is not at all beautiful, admittedly lacking “all ‘symbolic’ freedom of expression, all classical proportion, all humanity” (166;Der Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels145). Any time allegory is subjected to the critical palate of philosophical taste, it will seem a bitter alternative to beauty. However, by discrediting the presumed authority of aesthetics (the beautiful) and idealism (the symbolic determination of the object as a reflection of the object...

  10. 6 Allegory as Metonymy: The Figure without a Face
    (pp. 181-212)

    In the land of Homer’s Phaiakians, a stranger listens passionately to a rhapsode who sings of the adventures of Odysseus. The crowd gathered in theagorais entranced, but no one so much as the stranger, who draws his cloak over his head and remains concealed as he weeps,

    as a woman weeps, lying over the body of her dear husband, who fell fighting for her city and people as he tried to beat off the pitiless day from city and children; she sees him dying and gasping for breath, and winding her body about him she cries high and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 213-236)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-246)
  13. Index
    (pp. 247-262)