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Structures of Appearing:

Allegory and the Work of Literature

Brenda Machosky

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii

An earlier version of chapter 2 appeared in Exemplaria 15, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 1–38; available online at www.maney.co.uk/journasl/exm and www.ingenta connect.com/content/maeny/exm. This book has been many years in the making. For enduring the oscillations these years entailed, I thank my husband, Joseph Herzog. For their unqualified support, I thank my friend Diana Karamichael Crean and my family...

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Introduction: A Phenomenological Approach to Allegory

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pp. 1-27

There is general agreement that the term allegory refers 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...

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1. Face Off : The Allegorical Image and Aesthetics

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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...

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2 A Phenomenological Reduction:Allegory in Prudentius’ Psychomachia

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pp. 64-94

As a trope, allegoria seems 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 rubric hyponoia (Whitman, Allegory 265). At the end of the fourth century CE, allegory became particularly...

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3 The Changing Faces of Allegory:Dante and Spenser

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pp. 95-127

In book 10 of The 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” (Republic 599e). ...

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4 The Allegorical Structure ofPhenomenology of Spirit

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pp. 128-154

The name of Hegel is a mighty invocation for philosophy. A model of rigor, and from start to finish grounded in Wissenschaft (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 ...

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5 Reconsidering Allegory and Symbol: Benjamin and Goethe

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pp. 155-180

In the “Epistemo-Critical Prologue” to The 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 Trauerspiels 145). Any time allegory is subjected to the critical palate of philosophical taste, it will seem a...

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6 Allegory as Metonymy: The Figure without a Face

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pp. 181-211

The tears shed by the stranger, Odysseus, go unnoticed by the entire assemblage except for King Alkinoös, who finally interrupts the singing so that the stranger can identify himself.1 Immediately thereafter, Odysseus comes out of his concealment and, in the place of the rhapsode, he tells his own story.2 The place of Odysseus’ concealment is the agora, the place of assembly. In the agora, present and absent, sung and silent, Odysseus is a figure of allegory...


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pp. 213-236


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pp. 237-245


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pp. 247-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246328
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823242849
Print-ISBN-10: 0823242846

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012