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allusion


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An indirect or passing reference to some event, person, place, or artistic work, the nature and relevance of which is not explained by the writer but relies on the reader's familiarity with what is thus mentioned. The technique of allusion is an economical means of calling upon the history or the literary tradition that author and reader are assumed to share, although some poets (notably Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot) allude to areas of quite specialized knowledge. In his poem ‘The Statues’ (1939)—When Pearse summoned Cuchulain to his sideWhat stalked through the Post Office?—W. B. Yeatsalludes both to the hero of Celtic legend (Cuchulain) and to the new historical hero (Patrick Pearse) of the 1916 Easter Rising, in which the revolutionaries captured the Dublin Post Office. In addition to such topical allusions to recent events, Yeats often uses personal allusions to aspects of his own life and circle of friends. Other kinds of allusion include the imitative (as in parody), and the structural, in which one work reminds us of the structure of another (as Joyce's Ulysses refers to Homer's Odyssey). Topical allusion is especially important in satire. Adjective: allusive. For a fuller account, consult Joseph Pucci, The Full‐Knowing Reader (1998).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval).


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