By Simon Brittan
Facing poetry is usually challenging for the college instructor and scholar: even if undergraduates tend to be attentive to discussions approximately drama and prose, poetry usually silences the school room. until a poem presents references simply acceptable to their very own lives, many scholars believe they can not relate to the piece and are stymied. particularly, allegorical poetry produces tensions one of the wish to locate the meanings of the poet's symbolism, the terror of voicing a "wrong" interpretation, and a traditional objection to perceived regulations on interpretive freedom. Poetry, image, and Allegory eases that challenge by way of offering a historic assessment of theories of interpretation as they practice to image and allegory in poetry, thereby reclaiming worthwhile and beneficial equipment of interpreting poems. starting with Plato and Aristotle, Simon Brittan strikes from classical thought to the lesser-known medieval exegetical theories of such notables as Augustine, Aquinas, and Origen; addresses idea relating Renaissance Italy and Dante, English conception of the center a while, the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Romantic interval; and concludes via weighing the poetry of T. E. Hulme, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound at the greater old scale of literary concept. by way of acknowledging interpretive theories of the previous, Brittan offers a right ancient body of reference within which brand new scholar can larger comprehend figurative language in poetry.
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Additional info for Poetry, Symbol, and Allegory: Interpreting Metaphorical Language from Plato to the Present
How far are we really justiWed in seeing Dante’s interpretive methods as new? If we begin with his own assessment of the Convivio as “a new sun” designed to give light where the old sun sets, to illuminate with a new kind of knowledge “those in shadows and in darkness,” we can agree with him (perhaps in slightly less rhapsodic terms) that a seriously analytical work of literary criticism written in his own widely comprehensible 47 Brittan text 1/8/03 5:04 PM Page 48 DANTE, HERMETISM, AND RENAISSANCE ITALY vernacular, rather than in Latin, is indeed a new thing.
Dante begins discussion of his poem by pointing out that its sense is not simple: “rather, we should call it ‘polysemous,’ having many senses; the Wrst being that which comes from the letter, the second that which is signiWed by the letter. ” He then goes on to discuss this method of reading his poem in the context of Psalm 114. In the King James Version, the psalm runs as follows: When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1–5) What does this mean? God is Word—language—and Word is God. God and Word are therefore the same thing: God is language. But Word is also with God, and John tells us that this Word, or aspect of Word, is Christ, since it was made Xesh and sent to redeem us. In Genesis, when God 32 Brittan text 1/8/03 5:03 PM Page 33 THOMAS AQUINAS creates he does so by language, by speaking: “God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:3), and so on with the Wrmament, the appearance of dry land, plants, stars, and all the furniture of the physical universe.