Allegory as Metonymy: The Figure without a Face

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:
Allegory as Metonymy: The Figure without a Face

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Allegory is not an extended metaphor. This conclusion defies a long-standing (though not unanimous) definition. Bringing together ideas from Roman Jakobson, Barbara Johnson, Maureen Quilligan and others, the author argues that metonymy forces an attentiveness to the materiality of language that metaphor avoid, with its metaphysical structure driving attention towards meaning. In response to the “old quarrel” between philosophers and poets, referenced throughout the book, the author suggests that philosophy and poetry actually share a limit through their use of language, and this limit requires a newly defined allegorical approach. This approach requires a language-attentive close reading that resists the temptation to objectify the literary texts. The chapter begins with a reading of Odysseus at the court of Alkinöos as a figure of allegory reconceived as two beings in the same space at the same time. As referenced on the cover, Ernst Christophe's sculpture, Le Masque, and Baudelaire's poem about it, give us the experience of phusis that only an allegorical structure can support. Because of its inherent difficulty, its resistance to interpretation by its refusal to be objectified, the work of Kafka merits careful attention and yields illuminating results through and about the allegorical method proposed.

Keywords: allegory; Baudelaire; Jakobson; Barbara Johnson; Kafka; metonymy; metaphor; Jean-Luc Nancy; phusis

Chapter.  13157 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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