Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature

Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature

Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature

Structures of Appearing: Allegory and the Work of Literature

Synopsis

Taking a phenomenological approach to allegory, Structures of Appearing seeks to revise the history of aesthetics, identifying it as an ideology that has long subjugated art to philosophical criteria of judgment. Rather than being a mere signifying device, allegory is the structure by which something appears that cannot otherwise appear. It thus supports the appearance and necessary experience of philosophical ideas that are otherwise impossible to present or represent. Allegory is as central to philosophy as it is to literature. Following suggestions by Walter Benjamin, Machosky argues that allegory itself must appear allegorically and thus cannot be forced into a logos -centric metaphysical system. She builds on the work of Maurice Blanchot and Emmanuel Levinas to argue that the allegorical image is not a likeness to anything, not a subjective reflection, but an absolute otherness that becomes accessible by virtue of its unique structure. Allegory thus makes possible not merely the textual work of literature but the work that literature is. Machosky develops this insight in readings of Prudentius, Dante, Spenser, Hegel, Goethe, and Kafka.

Excerpt

There is general agreement that the term allegory refers to a way of saying or showing one thing and meaning another. This very definition reveals the particular phenomenology of allegory, an artistic or poetic structure in which some “other thing” appears in the “thing appearing” without being the same thing. Allegory can be defined more specifically as “the appearance of one thing in another thing which it is not.” Traditionally understood as a structure of meaning, allegory has a limited range, and critics of this mode are correct that it can be a facile, if at times fascinating, signifying structure. But is that what allegory is? Merely a signifying structure in which meaning trumps language? Or is there something more to allegory? Is allegory itself an allegory in which something other than “an allegory” appears? in the mode of these questions, I believe allegory needs to be examined in a more fundamental way. That is the task I have undertaken in this book. the task is a phenomenological one because it is a study of appearance, the way that phenomena appear by means of allegory. in allegory there is a phenomenologically simultaneous appearance of two things in the same image, in the same “space” at the same time. the structure of allegory supports a mode of appearance that defies the logical constraint prohibiting the occupation of the same space by two things at the same time. So what are these “things,” and where is this “space”? the obvious thing that appears is through the words or in the image of the work. But allegory evolved on the principle that something more appears there, something the words or images point to, something “other.” Traditionally this “other” thing has been called “meaning,” because allegory has long been understood as part of a system of representation with a metaphysical structure—based in the tangible real, but transcended by the meaningful ideal. I propose instead an understanding of allegory through its own structure, which is specifically not a metaphysical . . .

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