Allegory and Modernity (RSA April 2013; abstracts by June 11, 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
Jason Crawford / Renaissance Society of America
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There are good reasons for thinking of allegory as a peculiarly medieval form. For all their ancient antecedents, the practices of allegorical reading and allegorical writing do not fully emerge until the early centuries of the Christian era. And these practices, at their height, derive much of their strength from the institutions and intellectual formations of the medieval church: its sacramental economy, its logocentric creation theology, its cult of saints, its iconography of the body, its eschatological interpretations of history.

What, then, does modernity mean for allegory? Do allegorical exegesis and allegorical poiesis simply fall out of favor, or decline into obsolescence, in the wake of the cultural ruptures of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries? Is allegory, in this period, necessarily a mark of conservatism, of Catholicism, of mannerism, or of nostalgia? Or does allegory in fact gain new kinds of energy from the crises of early modernity? Can allegory also take peculiarly modern – peculiarly radical, Protestant, critical, or revolutionary – forms?

This panel welcomes papers that consider the possibilities and limits of allegorical poetry and allegorical hermeneutics in the early modern period. To propose a paper, send an abstract of about 200 words, along with a brief CV, to Jason Crawford (jmcrawford at, by June 11, 2012.

The panel will take place at the Renaissance Society of America annual meeting, San Diego, 4-6 April 2013.