The Point of the Plow: Conceptual Integration in the Allegory of Langland and Voltaire
Allegory as a genre dominated the literary and cultural landscape through the Middle Ages, with PPl at the apogee, and declined with the rise of modernity, with the Romantics declaring it moribund by the early 19th century. What replaced it, they claimed, was Symbol, not a genre, but a new literary aesthetic. Allegory was inert and limited. Symbol was active and expansive. Scholars as diverse as Benjamin, Foucault, and Quilligan have attributed this aesthetic shift to modernist secularization, to the loss of a spiritually infused picture of the material world. This essay contends that while the prototypical, historical genre has indeed faded, the cognitive affinities that the genre satisfied so directly continue to thrive; that the modernist aesthetic also appeals to these affinities; and that allegory is consonant with modernism. It builds this argument through analyses of PPl and Voltaire’s Candide, through the intersection of the medieval figure, enigma, and Conceptual Blending Theory. (MK and CG; adapted from the journal’s abstract)
Metaphor and Symbol, 26 (2011), 143-51.
Kasten, Madeleine, and Curtis Gruenler