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Allegory and imagery

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  • Steve Hayes
    Williams was not an allegorist as, for example, was John Bunyan, whose Christian cannot be made to symbolize Everyman or any man, but only Christian man. He
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2012
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      Williams was not an allegorist as, for example, was John Bunyan, whose
      Christian cannot be made to symbolize Everyman or any man, but only Christian
      man. He was an imagist like Dante, whose actual Beatrice was a symbol of many
      things besides salvation, and could have been used to symbolize and
      indefinite number of other things, some of them inimical to salvation. A
      convenient illustration of the distinction between allegory and imagery
      comes from the opening verse of Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of
      God," which can be read either way.

      To begin with allegory: the psalmist may have wished to communicate an idea
      of God's glory that was already reasonably clear to him, and looking around,
      decided that this concept could be expressed better by comparing it with the
      heavens that with the oceans, the mountains, the birth-death-rebirth cycle of
      nature, or the splendor of the human heart. To enhance the poetic effect, he
      may have turned the literally exact but passive statement, "The glory of God
      is like the heavens", into the figurative but active. "The heavens declare
      the glory of God". If he functioned in this manner (and we have no way of
      knowing whether he did), using the heavens, the law, and other aspects of the
      world as convenient illustrations, he was an allegorist. Many people do
      habitually think in this manner, and apparently it is their natural mode of
      thought.

      On the other hand, the psalmist may have looked at the heavens and discovered
      that they revealed to him something that he did not already know about the
      divine glory, so that his line was a literal description of his experience.
      If he observed the world in this way, with the things ands activities around
      him serving as instruments for discovery, he was an imagist, and in company
      with many others to whom imagery is a natural mode of thinking and
      perceiving.

      Source: Lewis & Williams 1974:7 (article by Mary McDermott Shideler)


      --
      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/litmain.htm
      http://www.goodreads.com/hayesstw
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