David Grubbs holds forth with Nathan Gilmour and Michial Farmer about allegory, both as a mode of reading and as a literary genre. The debate hinges on what terms mean in which contexts: is a literary text defective because it’s an allegory, or are there good or bad allegories? Explore that and other questions with us.
Our theme music this week is Radiohead’s “Packd Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box,” from 2001’s Amnesiac. I’m a reasonable man. Get off my case. Get off my case.
5 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #144: Allegory”
Another great episode! Nathan looked back to Plato as a progenitor “readerly allegory” I’d also like to note that Plato wrote a few allegories himself. The allegory of the cave in the Republic is no doubt the most famous, but there are less straight-forward myths in other places, like the Phaedrus and the Phaedo. Allegory was also popular in late antiquity. Not only were Christian authors (e.g. Prudentius) practitioners, but pagans also enjoyed them (e.g. Martianus Capella’s the Marriage of Mercury and Philology).
Thanks for this episode. The comments re Bunyan’s achievements or failures as an author and allegorist might have been tempered a bit by including statements from critics–both pro and con–from the past. I know you all were trying to stay away from Lewis (not altogether successfully), but his short essay comes immediately to mind. Also, the sequel to PP reads more like a narrative with didactic elements (admittedly somewhat heavy-handed at times); so perhaps that might have warranted a mention. Or his _The Holy War_ as another example. Maybe a whole episode for Bunyan, a’la Spenser, since you included further discussion of his work in this episode?
I’m surprised that none of you mentioned Animal Farm… thoughts? It’s certainly an allegory, and a pretty politically important one. The literary question is whether Orwell managed to achieve something more than just tell the story of the Russian Revolution in a different way.
Alex P You’re right, of course. I was trying to give a broad sweep of allegory’s story from Homer to Spenser without eating up the entire show, but I could have picked different texts along the way to be sure.
DanielWright2 Orwell is certainly a strange case. I do think of Animal Farm and of 1984 as allegories of a sort, and relatively few dispute the Lenin/Trotsky/Stalin allegory in the book’s central triumporkate. I’ll have to wait for Michial to weigh in on this one.