The Changing Faces of Allegory: Dante and Spenser

Brenda Machosky

in Structures of Appearing

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780823242849
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823242887 | DOI:
The Changing Faces of Allegory: Dante and Spenser

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Comparing Dante's medieval, Catholic, divinely inspired, and perfectly completed Commedia to Spenser's early modern, Protestant, all too human, and apparently incomplete Faerie Queene serves two functions in a phenomenological account of allegory. First, allegory changes its face and its relationship to the expression of truth, but allegory as such remains stable at its core. As A.C. Hamilton wrote, “these poets [must] write a common language of allegory” for any theory of allegory to be viable. Second, the transition from the medieval to the modern that takes place during the Renaissance of knowledge and the Reformation of religion, is marked by a significant change in allegory's purpose and presentation, although not in its structure. The author reviews the critical tradition of each allegorical work but focuses on a trend evolving from the medieval to the early modern: allegory expresses the fiction that is true for a world that is false. The author also shows how, from Dante to Spenser, allegory shifted from a structure of appearance that made the divine manifest to humans to a structure by which humans attempt to manifest their own divinity.

Keywords: allegory; Dante; literal level; medieval; Protestant Reformation; Renaissance; Spenser; truth of fiction

Chapter.  13471 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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