Reinventing Allegory

by Theresa M. Kelley

Chapter 5: Romantic Ambivalences I


1 Gossman, History and Literature 258. De Baecque's misleading claim ("Allegorical Image" 125-27) that after 1789 French allegory depends on simplified and popular iconography (contradicted by ample evidence that revolutionary propagandists frequently used arcane allegorical images) reduces the complexity of this critical juncture in the modern history of allegory and representation.

2 White's Metahistory inaugurates the postmodern view of history; see too Lynn Hunt, "History as Gesture" 98-105; Anderson, "Dispensing with the Fixed Point" 277; and David Carr, "Narrative and the Real World" 124-31.

3 Byron, Childe Harold, 1.38-39, pp. 24-25; 2.75, p. 69; 3.18-19, p. 83; 4.104, p. 159.

4 Blessington, "Allegory," in Sketches and Fragments 72-79. The advantage of this kind of allegory for Lady Blessington, whose regency past might be glossed as the Perils of Pleasure, is clear. A computer-generated list of titles published between 1760 and 1810 indicates that Blessington's allegorical tale is a latecomer among works published at the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of the nineteenth century which advertise themselves as allegories.

5 Elmes, "Attributes and Allegory" Annals v (1820):309-26; see too the "Ghost of Barry" essays, Annals ii (1817):127-45, 295-96, and 446-61, and one among several "Somniator" dream-visions (iii (1818):229-33). In the first of his Discourses, Barry reiterates Neoclassical arguments about the liabilities of "continued allegory" (Discourses, in Works i:356-57, 466-71). Curran lists other Romantic allegories (Poetic Form 31, 60, 93, 49-50, 166, 167).

6 Whitley, Art in England ii:11. Fuseli reiterates Neoclassical arguments against the use of allegory in history painting ("Aphorisms," in Life and Writings iii:126-27); the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1796, "metaphor") dutifully echoes received opinion; Elmes reprises Spence and Reynolds on the faults of Ripa and Rubens ("Attributes and Allegory,"Annals v (1820):311-20).

7 Mee notes other Romantic instances of this critique (Dangerous Enthusiasms 71, 275).

8 Percy Shelley reads this tendency ironically in cancelled lines for Triumph of Life (TL 191) and in Posthumous Poems 180-81.

9 William Carlos Williams, Paterson 9.

10 Damon, Blake Dictionary 16.

11 Heppner, Blake's Designs 43-47, 114-15.

12 Critics who grant Neoclassical definitions of allegory tend to conclude that Blake is not an allegorist. See Hagstrum, Poet and Painter 109; McGann, "Blake's Prophecies," Curran and Wittreich 11-13. Hazard Adams uses the term synecdoche to describe the relation of visible part to absent whole that others identify with allegory (Literary Symbolic 13-18; "Synecdoche and Method" 45-47). De Luca argues (Poetics of the Sublime 22, 34) that Blake's view of sublime allegory is indebted to Burkean indistinction, without noting Blake's contempt for this idea ("Obscurity is Neither the Source of the Sublime nor of any Thing else," Blake 658). Mee mentions emblem, prophecy, and parabolism but not allegory (Dangerous Enthusiasms 13-27). Damrosch aligns symbol and vision against allegory, but notes that Blake's prophecies invite readers to perform exegesis (Symbol and Truth 91-97). On the other side of this debate are Frye, Fearful Symmetry 9-11, Curran and Wittreich as editors of Sublime Allegory, and several contributors to this volume: Rieger, "Bard's Song in Milton" 274; Easson, "Blake and Reader" 309; Rose, "Los, Pilgrim of Eternity" 86-93.

13 Gleckner, Blake and Spenser 69.

14 Gleckner, Blake and Spenser 100; Essick, "Altering Eye"; Spector, "Tiriel" 316-32.

15 De Luca, Poetics of the Sublime 133.

16 Essick, "Blake's Body"); Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book 164-79. Carr asks whether each change, whether an accident of the process or an intended effect, might have mattered to Blake ("Illuminated Printing").

17 Goldsmith, Unbuilding Jerusalem 171.

18 Clark, "Blake, Nietzsche, and the Disclosure of Difference" 111.

19 Samuel Johnson, Gray, in Lives iii:434. Blake's reading was sufficiently eccentric that he may or may not have read Johnson on Gray.

20 Tayler, Blake's Gray 58.

21 Gleckner, Blake and Spenser 17; Tayler, Blake's Gray 103-4.

22 Gleckner, Blake and Spenser 18.

23 See Blake's design for Gray's Ode on a Distant Prospect, plate 8. Tayler discusses Blake's use of grotesque figures (Blake's Gray 110-11).

24 The term structuration is Giddens's. Hoerner has used it productively to discuss poetic agency in Wordsworth's poems ("Nostalgia's Freight").

25 See, for example, Blair, Rhetoric and Belles Lettres ii: 315-34. Modern critics have been increasingly attentive to the rhetorical power of Romantic figures. See, for example: Bronson, "Personification" 226-30; de Man, Rhetoric of Romanticism; Chase, Decomposing Figures; Wolfson, "Comparing Power"; Manning, Reading Romantics; Jacobus, Romanticism; Rajan, Supplement; Liu, Wordsworth and "Power of Formalism"; essays collected in Arden Reed, Romanticism and Language and in Bialostosky and Needham, Rhetorical Traditions and British Romantic Literature.

26 Prosopopoeia refers to the presentation of an imaginary or absent person as if really present and speaking (or spoken to). Literally the giving of a face or voice to that which has neither, prosopopoeia is a disembodied, synecdochic figure for an absent speaker (Lanham, Handlist 83; Culler, "Apostrophe" 60-63).

27 By the 1819 edition, Campbell's phrase "prospopoeias in miniature" had disappeared. In its place, the revised text describes allegory and prosopopoeia as "comparisons conveyed in a particular form." Campbell's "room" may also suggest the use of fixed frames - rooms or boxed stages - to present magic-lantern shows to eighteenth-century viewers. For a discussion of magic-lantern shows and phantasmagorias, see Altick, Shows 117-19, 217-19.

28 Wimsatt, Allegory and Mirror 22-23.

29 Ozouf, Festivals 211-12; Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class 62-66, 89-90; Darnton and Roche, Revolution in Print, plate 13, no. 188; Popkin, "Pictures in a Revolution" 254-57. De Baecque argues from other evidence that the French use of allegorical images in the last years of the eighteenth century dramatizes a crisis in representation ("Allegorical Image" 134).

30 Williams, Letters written in France in the Summer of 1790 1.203-4, in Letters, vol. i; Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class 64, and Favret, Romantic Correspondence 64-65.

31 Ozouf, Festivals 209-12.

32 Darnton and Roche, Revolution in Print 248, 286. Such evidence argues that revolutionary allegorical images were not always, as De Baecque suggests, simpler. The clear exception is the figure of Liberty, whose conventionality De Baecque documents (De Baecque, "Allegorical Image" 136).

33 Andries, "Almanacs," in Darnton and Roche 220.

34 Ozouf, Festivals 212.

35 Ozouf, Festivals 77-79; Dowd, Pageant-Master 68-71; Rubin, "Allegory versus Narrative" 387-90.

36 Michelet begins his history of the Revolution by presenting it as the inevitable consequence of France's luminous history (Histoire de la Révolution i:v-vi).

37 Lay Sermons 131-37. E. H. Coleridge reviews these changes (Coleridge 589) as does White (Lay Sermons 131-32n.).

38 Coleridge, Lectures 1808-19 ii:103 and 409. See texts for these lectures which Raysor created by assembling Coleridge's notes and those compiled by members of his audience (Coleridge, Miscellaneous Criticism 29-33). For much of this century, critics have assented to Coleridge's influential distinction. See, for example, Barth, Symbolic Imagination 3-21.

39 Taylor, "Persons and Things" 163-65; Altick reviews the nineteenth-century fascination with automatons and related spectacles (Shows 64-72).

40 Coleridge reworks the fancy-imagination axis numerous times. See for example Lectures 1808-19 i:67, 81-82; CN ii:865-66, 1034; Table-Talk i:426, 439, 489-90. Simpson notes Coleridge's affiliation between fancy and dangerous French theory (Romanticism 82-83).

41 In his 1817 preface to "Fire, Famine, and Slaughter," Coleridge likens the density of metaphor in Milton's prose to "so many allegorical miniatures." These are presented to the "eye of the imagination," whereas the Platonist Thomas Taylor's "images of fancy" attract merely the "common passive eye" (Sibylline Leaves 106).

42 Jerome Christensen, "Symbol's Errant Allegory"; Gatta, "Coleridge and Allegory"; Kearns, Romantic Autobiography 118-19; McGann summarizes earlier critical assessments of the Rime's relation to nineteenth-century biblical hermeneutics ("Ancient Mariner" 44-47).

43 De Man, "Rhetoric," in Blindness and Insight 190-96, 211; Harding (Inspired Word 93-94) and Longxi ("Postmodern Allegory" 214) take issue with de Man. Halmi argues that by naturalizing the symbol Coleridge undermines its theological foundation ("Coleridgean Symbol" 29).

44 Schelling, Philosophie der Kunst, Part II 354ff.; Goethe, "Symbolik," in Werke xvi:855-56, and "Über Laokoon," in Werke viii:161-74; Solger, Erwin. Vier Gespräche 218-29; Creuzer, Symbolik und Mythologie. For English translations, see Schelling, Philosophy of Art 45-50; for Creuzer, Solger, and his relevant correspondence, see Wheeler, who summarizes the German Romantic preference for symbol over allegory (German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism 9-17 128-35, 157-58). De Man notes Schlegel's 1823 substitution of "symbolical" for "allegorical" in Gespräch über die Poesie, first published in 1800. See de Man, "Rhetoric of Temporality," in Blindness and Insight 190-91, and Schlegel, Gespräch, in Kritische Ausgabe ii:324. Other critics note when German writers question this preference: Berefelt, "Symbol and Allegory"; Hamlin, "Temporality of Selfhood" 182-86; Simon Richter, Laocoon's Body 173-79. Titzmann reviews this debate ("Allegorie und Symbol" 642-65). Todorov offers a briefer account in Theories of Symbol 198-221; Gadamer's analysis of German Romantic writing on symbol and allegory is distinctly Coleridgean (Truth and Method 65-73).

45 Foakes, in Coleridge, Lectures 1808-19 ii:102n.

46 Foakes notes that "Faery" is the last word on the page (Lectures 1808-19 ii:103n.). Coleridge either decided not to continue or the rest was lost.

47 Engell and Bate list eighteenth-century comments about "fancy" and note Coleridge's earlier effort to "desynonymize" fancy from adjacent terms in his Lectures 1808-19 (BL 1:306n.).

48 BL 1:lxxxvi-lxxxvii, xcvii-civ.

49 Vorschule der Aesthetik 31-37. The English translation is mine. In their overview of German Romantic and earlier discussions of fancy and imagination (BL 1:xcvii-civ), Engel and Bate emphasize consensus, whereas I attend to the occasional, but instructive, note of dissent.

50 Coleridge is less chary in his praise for the "allegorical miniatures" in Milton's prose, where "words that convey feelings, and words that flash images, and words of abstract notions flow together" (Sibylline Leaves 106).

51 Burke, Enquiry 61.

52 Chase, Decomposing Figures 48.

53 Altick, Shows 8n., 64.

54 Ferguson discusses other relations between persons and abstractions in Wordsworth's "We Are Seven" (Solitude and the Sublime 146-71).

55 See Jacobus's differently poised discussion (Romanticism 114).

56 Quoted by Altick, Shows 217.

57 De Man, "Epistemology."

58 Hodgson assesses the redundancy in Wordsworth's allegorical figures ("Poems of the Imagination" 278-80).

59 Bourdieu, Outline 69.