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Related to allegorical: anagogical


in literature, symbolic story that serves as a disguised representation for meanings other than those indicated on the surface. The characters in an allegory often have no individual personality, but are embodiments of moral qualities and other abstractions. The allegory is closely related to the parable, fable, and metaphor, differing from them largely in intricacy and length. A great variety of literary forms have been used for allegories. The medieval morality play Everyman, personifying such abstractions as Fellowship and Good Deeds, recounts the death journey of Everyman. John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, a prose narrative, is an allegory of man's spiritual salvation. Spenser's poem The Faerie Queene, besides being a chivalric romance, is a commentary on morals and manners in 16th-century England as well as a national epic. Although allegory is still used by some authors, its popularity as a literary form has declined in favor of a more personal form of symbolic expression (see symbolistssymbolists,
in literature, a school originating in France toward the end of the 19th cent. in reaction to the naturalism and realism of the period. Designed to convey impressions by suggestion rather than by direct statement, symbolism found its first expression in poetry but
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See C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love (1936); P. de Man, Allegories of Reading (1979); M. Quilligan, The Language of Allegory (1979)


A figurative representation or sculpture in which the meaning is conveyed by the use of symbols.



a conventional representation, in art, of abstract ideas which are not assimilated in the artistic image but retain their independence and remain external to the image. The connection between image and meaning is ascertained in allegory by analogy (for example, the lion as the embodiment of strength). Unlike a symbol, which has multiple meanings, allegory is characterized by a unique, constant definition and is revealed not directly in the artistic image but only through interpretation of the obvious or hidden allusions and evidence contained in the image—that is, by subsuming the image under some concept (religious dogma, moral, philosophical, or scientific ideas, etc.). Insofar as the universal and the particular are inseparably intertwined in an artistic image, allegory cannot fully account for the content of the image, even while being a fundamental and necessary component of it.

The term “allegory” was first used in Longinus’ and Cicero’s treatises on rhetoric. In the aesthetics of the Middle Ages allegory was one of the four meanings contained in a work of art, in addition to the grammatical (literal), moral, and anagogical (edifying) meanings. As a specific form of artistic image, allegory was studied in detail by German aes-theticians of the 18th through the beginning of the 19th centuries (Winckelmann, Goethe, Schelling, Hegel, Solger, Schopenhauer, and others).

In literature many allegorical images are borrowed from mythology and folklore. Fables, morality plays, and parables, as well as many works of Eastern poetry of the Middle Ages, are built on allegory; it also appears in other genres (“The Three Springs” by A. S. Pushkin, the stories of M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin). In the mid-19th century the concept of allegory was narrowed to mean only an artistic technique.

In the fine arts, allegory (figures with constant attributes, groups of figures, and compositions embodying some concept) constitutes a separate genre whose features are discernible in the mythological pictures of antiquity. Allegories of virtue, vice, and the like, which were widespread during the Middle Ages, took on humanistic attributes during the Renaissance. Allegories in mannerist, baroque, and rococo art became particularly complex and refined. Classicism and academism viewed allegory as part of the “high” historical genre. In contemporary art allegory has given way to symbolic images with a more highly developed psychological imagery.


Losev, A. F., and V. P. Shestakov. Istoriia esteticheskikh kategorii. Moscow, 1965. Pages 237–57.
Sorensen, B. A. Symbol und Symbolismus in den ästhetischen Theorien des XVIII. Jahrhunderts und der deutschen Romantik. Copenhagen, 1963.


allegory: Cathedral of Worms, 13th cent. The beast with four heads symbolizes the Four Gospels
A figurative representation in which the meaning is conveyed symbolically.


1. a poem, play, picture, etc., in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning
2. the technique or genre that this represents
3. use of such symbolism to illustrate truth or a moral
References in periodicals archive ?
In his thesis, "The Rhetoric of Temporality", de Mann thought that the identity of the text and the meaning of symbols can be 'misleading' so only allegorical interpretation can have access to the essence of language.
First, I problematize the contemporary scholarly distinction between typology and allegory, seeing it as supporting an often unwarranted anxiety about ancient allegorical practice.
An exception to the allegorical approach was the strong influence of the Arabic grammarians and philologists upon Jewish scholars, such as Rashi and ibn Ezra, who revived interest in the literal sense of the text and this was taken up by the Christian scholar, Nicholas of Lyra, with his learned study of the Hebrew Bible.
Given that allegorical imagery often takes the form of the female body, it is not surprising that the link between allegory and the female figure makes up a recurring and predominant theme in the volume.
that [requires us to] take in Benjamin's reflections on perception and shock, with allegory as the preferred hermeneutics of the shock experience" (my emphasis, 2001:198-189) I want to take up this neglected insight by looking, first, at Walter Benjamin's defence of allegorical expression as an antidote to myth and, then, at how iconographic scenes of colonial violence are 're-touched' by the allegorical intention in Hillcoat's revisionist western film, The Proposition.
Adding to the allegorical tone were two vaguely anthropomorphic piles of bricks, Ruined 1 and Ruined 2 (both 2007), constructed from surfboard foam, latex, and bloodred paint, which were symmetrically aligned with the video installation.
In the past, Saatchi had help with installation from his list artists, notably Hirst (a definite master of allegorical enjambment, though this time he was too busy preparing his "murderme collection"--"In the darkest hour there may be light"--for the Serpentine Gallery through January 28).
Figural reading, therefore, is to be contrasted with a purely allegorical reading in which determining semiotic relations (for example one term replacing another) is precisely how one reads, a method of reading that potentially dissolves the historical reality of the text's representations (that is, the historical Jewish community) in favor of a superior spiritual reality (Christian supersessionism).
1570), by the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, is part of a suite of allegorical paintings of the four elements.
Introductory chapters walk the reader through the origin and allegory of the Bhagavad Gita, but the bulk of The Essence Of The Bhagavad Gita takes the sacred text passage by passage and explicates at length the literal, spiritual, allegorical, cultural and other implications.
Ross' work is futuristic but does its part to retrieve the allegorical, timeless nature of Scripture that animated the Christian visual art of the past.
The modifications to both these allegorical poems are highly suggestive of Kinsella's changing poetics, taking place as they do over five decades, but I have chosen here to focus on 'Downstream'.