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Title: Allegory in action : the relation between literal and figurative meaning in the 1590 edition of Spenser's The Faerie Queene
Author: Suttie, Paul
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1995
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Critics have commonly assumed that, in The Faerie Queene, and in allegorical literature generally, the figurative meaning of the text is unknowable in principle to the characters who take part in its literal narrative vehicle, and may rather be discovered only by the text's readers. But in fact there are two quite different kinds of allegory: in one, the figurative meaning of the text does (as such critics suppose of all allegory) constitute a distinct structure or 'world' from the imaginary world constituted by its narrative vehicle; but in the other, the figurative meaning coexists with the text's literal meaning inside a single imaginary world. Essentially the same types were distinguished by Christian Biblical exegetes throughout the Middle Ages; but medieval writers theorized the distinction in terms of the fictionality or truth of the text's literal meaning, a characterization which is accurate so far as it goes, but problematic for a modern theorist in that it is designed as an account only of Biblical allegory rather than of allegory more generally, and presupposes Christian piety as the basis of its distinction between allegory's two kinds. Recasting the distinction in terms of the figurative meaning's existence or non-existence inside the imaginary work of the literal narrative allows us to discern the presence of the two kinds both in allegorical literature generally and in The Faerie Queene in particular. In Books One to Three of Spenser's poem, it is primarily for the characters who inhabit the world of the narrative that both the literal and figurative meanings of the poem exist; as readers, we apprehend the two kinds of meaning and the relation between them primarily through their imaginary experience.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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