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Title: Constellations of allegory : Gabriel García Márquez, Angela Carter and J.M. Coetzee
Author: Rahwan, Yamen Rahmoun
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis has two aims. First, it is a study of the idea of allegory and some of its literary manifestations within the context of late modernity. It attempts to disentangle and critically evaluate the multitude of theories and definitions that have been mobilised around this problematic term. Through an analysis of these theories, this study attempts to establish a critical use of allegory that preserves the insight of these varying notions of allegory by advancing the following twofold hypothesis. The first side of this hypothesis posits allegory as a distinct generic trope in which characters are engaged in a quest or a journey that involves the recognition and interpretation of metaphors and metonyms, with an aim to arrive at an "interpretative utopia" in which signifier and signified coincide. This is a definition that Deborah Madsen constructs and that this thesis embraces but revises. The second side of the hypothesis proposes that in the allegories of late modernity the recognition and interpretation thematised are historically variable and must be understood in relation to specific historical contexts. This assumption informs the examination and deployment of, amongst others, Fredric Jameson’s ideas of the national allegory and the postmodern allegory; Walter Benjamin’s theorisation of allegory, melancholia and the dialectical image; Paul de Man’s study of the relation between allegory, irony and subjectivity; and Theodor W. Adorno’s philosophy of ethics and its relation to allegory. The second aim of the thesis is to put these critical insights to work in a dialectical relationship with the fiction of Gabriel García Márquez, Angela Carter, and J.M. Coetzee. All the novels chosen thematise the failure of a utopian coincidence of signifier and signified, sign and meaning, a failure which conditions the understanding of capitalist modernity. The consequences of that failure are dramatised differently, in accordance with the specific experience of modernity in each case. In the context of the uneven development of Latin America, the continental allegories of García Márquez deal with the themes of melancholy and power, the accumulation of allegorical fragments and the potentiality for dialectical images. In the postmodernist allegories of Angela Carter, the failure of interpretation reflects a larger cultural dominant of commodification and fetishisation of the signifier. The postcolonial allegories of J.M. Coetzee deal with the cognitive failures of an identity thinking which underlies the Manichean allegory of coloniser and colonised, a failure that results in ethical melancholia. Overall, while positing their common use of generic allegory to deal with these crises of recognition and interpretation, the thesis emphasises the differences rather than the similarities of these writers. This convergence in one area but divergence in others throw a questioning light on the discussion of Franco Moretti’s idea of conducting a study in "world literature" via the use of "distant reading". Through examining Moretti’s method, the thesis shows that allegory is a dynamic problematic rather than a fixed conceptual term.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Jāmiʻat Ḥalab [Aleppo University]
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN Literature (General)