NEMLA Panel, Allegory in Early Modern and Eighteenth-Century England, submissions due September 15th
This panel will investigate the role of allegory in early modern and eighteenth-century England. Prospective panelists are invited to submit proposals about, but not limited to: the definition of allegory," in relation to closely related terms like typology, mythology, and metaphor; allegory's didactic function; attempts to write empirical allegories; the attack on allegory by Romantic writers. Please submit 500-word abstracts as a PDF document to Jason J. Gulya at email@example.com
Critics tend to understand Restoration and eighteenth-century writers—ranging from Dryden to Bunyan, to Addison and Johnson—as offering an aesthetic alternative to allegory. In the Enlightenment, goes the still-dominant narrative, allegory "dies" out to make way for more mimetic forms of representation. Behind this common story is the assumption that allegory and empiricism are inherently antithetical to one another, so that the literary form becomes outmoded as writers and readers become increasingly empirical.
This panel aims to revisit this narrative through a close attention to early modern and eighteenth-century texts. Were early modern authors, such as Milton, interested in rejecting allegory, or in reviving or modifying the form? How should we interpret Spenser's description of allegory as a "dark conceit" (a term taken up by Bunyan, in his phrase "dark figures")? How do allegorical (and pseudo-allegorical) figures function in the "metaphysical" poetry of Donne, Vaughan, and Herbert? In what ways were eighteenth-century writers interested in allegory? Did these writers understand it as out-of-place in Enlightenment England, or did they try to align it with Enlightenment principles? How did early novelists understand their own writing in terms of allegory? The goal of this panel is to ask these questions amongst others, as an access point into a broader discussion about aesthetics in early modern and eighteenth-century England?
We invite papers that focus on the status and role of allegory, even if those papers look at how writers viewed their work as a departure from allegory. Indeed, one of the major pivot points of our discussion will be how to understand these "departures" and what they mean for aesthetics principles throughout this time period. Topics may include: the definition of "allegory," in relation to closely related terms like typology, mythology, and metaphor; the connection between metaphysical poetry and allegory; allegory's didactic function; attempts to write empirical allegories; pseudo-allegorical names in early novels; the attack on allegory by Romantic writers, such as Goethe and Coleridge.