Langland’s Golden Bough’ ,
A review essay of Rita Copeland and Peter F. Struck, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Allegory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Teskey first defines allegory as ‘an incoherent narrative that makes us interpret throughout, aided by instructions inscribed in the text (including personified abstract nouns), and governed by the convention that the work as a whole is secondary with respect to transcendent meaning, ultimately a singularity corresponding, it is supposed, with the truth of the world’ (p. 192). Why, then, is allegory ‘treated so portentously, and so confusedly?’ (p. 192). There are two reasons: irresponsible interpretation, that is, hermeneutics, and irresponsible etymologizing, so that ‘allegory’ is reduced to ‘saying other’. The book under under review is in many respects a history of both. It is almost exclusively concerned with allegoresis, that is, with ‘elaborately fanciful interpretation of non-allegorical works’ (p. 194). It is a great mistake to confuse allegory with such allegoresis.