Allegory and modernity in English literature c. 1575-1675

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Brljak, Vladmir
  • Subject: PR

The thesis examines the place of allegory in the literature and intellectual culture of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century England, especially in its complex and contested relationship to the notion of the period’s (early) modernity. What is modernity’s quarrel with allegory? Why does it run so deep in Western thought, and why has it remained with us to the present day? What specific forms does this quarrel assume in the literary culture of the period now commonly designated as “early modern”? Why has allegory, under its many names, remained a point of differentiation and dispute between various sets of ancients and moderns even into our – some would say “postmodern” – times? Even as scholarship on allegory grows increasingly comprehensive and sophisticated, commentary on these issues has remained sporadic and inconclusive, and the thesis seeks to provide a more focused and comprehensive examination of the subject than has thus far been available.\ud \ud In terms of its format, the thesis pursues with these concerns through three chapters – on “Allegory and Poetics”, “Allegory and Drama”, and “Allegory and Epic” – preceded by an Introduction on “Allegory and Modernity”, and followed by an Afterword on “(Neo)allegory and (Anti)modernity”. The Introduction and Afterword discuss the broader questions raised by the allegory-modernity problem, and thus constitute a polemical frame for the three “case studies” on poetics, drama, and epic, which engage particular sixteenth- and seventeenth century texts and traditions. These range from such canonical staples as Sidney’s Defence of Poesy, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or Milton’s Paradise Lost to numerous other, less well known, but no less important works.\ud \ud In reconsidering the place of allegory in this corpus, the thesis is primarily intended as a contribution to English literary and intellectual history. On a broader level, it is also intended as a contribution to the more comprehensive project of “allegory studies”: the emergent nexus of interdisciplinary scholarship tackling those comprehensive and fundamental issues raised by the phenomenon of allegory which transcend particular discipline-, period-, or author-focused contexts. The thesis thus hopes to demonstrate the signal importance of the allegory-modernity problem in any advanced understanding of the Western allegorical tradition, at the same time as it sheds new light on what is in many ways the most important and most contested period – apart from our own, perhaps – in the history of this tradition.
  • References (182)
    182 references, page 1 of 19

    1 J. L. Borges, “From Allegories to Novels” [1949], in Selected Non-Fictions, ed. E. Weinberger (New York, 2000), 338.

    2 Theaetetus, 180c-d, in Complete Works, ed. J. M. Cooper (Indianapolis, 1997); unless otherwise noted, all quotations from Plato are from this edition. UP, 2006.

    Lieb, Michael, and John T. Shawcross, eds. “Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books”: Essays on the 1667 Edition. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 2007.

    Lindsay, David. The warkis of the famous and vorthie Knicht Schir Dauid Lyndesay of the Mont, Alias, Lyoun King of Armes. Newly correctit, and vindicate from the former errouris quhairwith thay war befoir corruptit: and augmentit with sindrie warkis quhilk was not befoir Imprentit. [Edinburgh]: J. Scot for H. Charteris, 1568.

    Lodge, Thomas. [“Reply to Gosson”. London: s.n., 1579?]

    ---. Scillaes Metamorphosis: Enterlaced with the vnfortunate loue of Glaucus. Whereunto is annexed the delectable discourse of the discontented Satyre: with sundrie other most absolute Poems and Sonnets. Contayning the detestable tyrannie of Disdaine, and Comicall triumph of Constancie: Verie fit for young Courtiers to peruse, and coy Dames to remember. London: R. Ihones, 1589.

    ---. The Wounds of Ciuill War. Liuely set forth in the true Tragedies of Marius and Seilla. As it hath beene publiquely plaide in London, by the Right Honourable the Lord high Admirall his Seruants. London: J. Danter, 1594.

    Lodge, Thomas, and Robert Greene. A Looking Glasse for London and England. London: T. Creede, 1594.

    Loewenstein, David. “Agnostic Shakespeare?: The Godless World of King Lear”. Shakespeare and Early Modern Religion. Ed. David Loewenstein and Michael Witmore. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2015.

    Long, Percy W. “A Detail of Renaissance Criticism”. MLN 15 (1900): 42-5.

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