Locating Meaning in Early Modern Allegory
- Danielle St. Hilaire (Duquesne University), Jeffery Stoyanoff (Duquesne University)
The early modern period in Europe saw a series of changes to the picture of the globe—both to its surface, with the “discoveries” of New World exploration, and to its place in the universe, with the period’s astronomical revelations. These discoveries, along with the crisis of interiority that led to and was fueled by the Protestant Reformation, unsettled older epistemological assumptions and prompted new inquiries into the locus of meaning in the world.
For allegory, which ostensibly relies upon a stable series of correspondences between its representations and what is being represented, the discoveries and epistemological shifts of the early modern period present a particularly interesting context, both for readers and for those early modern authors seeking to anchor a text’s meaning in a world that had, in Spenser’s words, “runne quite out of square.” This seminar seeks to examine the genre of allegory in the early modern period, particularly how allegorical texts struggle to locate and secure meaning both within their lines and between themselves and the world(s) they represent. Both papers addressing the relationship between allegorical works and their historical or philosophical contexts and papers addressing the internal dynamics of one or more literary works are welcome.
Possible topics may include:
- religious contexts for allegory
- early modern allegory v. medieval predecessors
- innovations in the allegorical genre
- locating the self in allegory
- science and allegory
- politics and allegory
- allegorical bodies
- failures of allegory
SEMINAR KEYWORDS: early modern literature, renaissance, allegory, poetics, epistemology, meaning, interpretation, politics, religion, science, New World, representation