Expanded List of Allegorical-Nonallegorical Pairs


In an earlier post, I offered a brief list of paired allegorical and nonallegorical texts by single authors. The idea was to use these pairs to look for the distinguishing textual features of allegory by controlling for as many variables (such as authorial style, genre, national origin, gender, period of composition, etc.) as possible. Or in other words, the attempt was to get as close as possible to the unattainable ideal of a corpus of texts that differ only by the presence or absence of allegory.

That short list was OK and was the basis of the second figure in my MLA paper on “Critical Text Mining.” But it was both (1) too short for corpus work and (2) depended on my own assessment of allegoricalness, with attendant limitations of historical scope. I’ve always felt that the better option would be to build an expanded version of this pairwise list on the basis of settled scholarship in the field.

The table below represents the groundwork for such a corpus of well-established allegorical-nonallegorical pairs. It’s still under development—there are obvious holes and issues—but it’s an outline of where I’m headed. What I really need now is feedback on the composition of this list.

Issues and Notes

A few notes, followed by a request for kind assistance:

  • All of the allegorical works are attested by one or more of the following major sources on allegory. Most are attested by several of them.
    • Copeland, Rita, and Peter Struck, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Allegory. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
    • Fletcher, Angus. Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1964.
    • Honig, Edwin. Dark Conceit: The Making of Allegory. Hanover, NH: UP of New England, 1959.
    • Leeming, David Adams, and Kathleen Morgan Drowne. Encyclopedia of Allegorical Literature. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1996.
    • Tambling, Jeremy. Allegory. New York: Routledge, 2010.
  • From these sources, I’ve excluded works mentioned only in passing or discussed as ambiguous or difficult cases. So while there’s always room to argue about the allegoricalness of any entry, the texts presented here under the heading of “Allegory” are about as canonically allegorical as it’s possible to be.
  • The nonallegorical texts are another matter; I’ve selected them myself as potential pairings for the allegorical entries. So far I’ve limited these to works by the same author, but I’m not necessarily averse to well-paired nonallegorical entries by other authors (and I’m aware that such pairings will sometimes be required).

There are two ways to use this list, and therefore two potentially conflicting goals when selecting pairs of texts:

  • Pairwise comparisons. In this case, I’ll evaluate each allegorical text only against its paired nonallegorical counterpart. For this purpose, it’s not especially important where the two texts fall on the imagined spectrum of allegoricalness, only that they be well separated from one another on it. But it is important that the two members of the pair are otherwise as similar as possible.
  • Corpus comparisons. On the other hand, I’ll also want to compare the features of the allegorical texts taken together against those of the collected nonallegorical texts. For this purpose what’s important is to avoid cases in which any of the allegorical or nonallegorical entries stray too far toward the opposite category, even if they’re significantly different from their pairmates. But it’s not so crucial that any one pair be especially well matched in content, style, etc.; the two corpora just need to be similar in overall composition.

Action Item

So what I’m looking for is feedback on the suitability of the nonallegorical items that are currently listed below, plus suggestions for appropriate texts where none is given.

The ideal case it to find a firmly nonallegorical text by the same author for each of the allegorical entries, but where that’s not possible, the next best solution is probably a text of similar origin, style, length, subject matter, form, and so forth. This will never be perfect, but the closer the match—while still maintaining good relative and absolute separation on the allegorical continuum—the better.

I’d also love to know about potential issues or complications concerning any of these texts and pairings.

Oh, and one other constraint: I need to be able to get my hands on electronic versions of whatever texts I’m going to use; this makes anything published after 1923 difficult (though not strictly impossible).

Massive thanks in advance to any and all who care to comment. The comments section below is probably the easiest way to leave feedback, or you can email me by clicking the “About” link (over on the lefthand side).

The Table: Allegorical and Nonallegorical Text Pairs Grouped by Era

Author Allegory Nonallegory Notes
Ancient and classical
Aeschylus Prometheus Bound Agamemnon Disputed authorship of Prometheus Bound
Aesop Fables ???
Hesiod Theogony Works and Days
Boethius Consolation of Philosophy De Musica De Musica seems unsuitable
Capella, Martianus Marriage of Mercury and Philology ???
Ovid Metamophoses Amores
Prudentius Psychomachia Cathemerinon
Virgil Aeneid Georgics
Anon. Bible (Genesis) ??? Very likely more interpretational trouble than it’s worth
Medieval and Renaissance
Alain de Lille Complaint of Nature Liber poenitentialis
Lorris, Guillaume de Romance of the Rose ??? Other medieval romance?
Silvestris, Bernard Cosmographia ??? Maybe commentary on Aeneid, but disputed authorship and different form
Bale, John King John ??? Another play from the era?
Chaucer, Geoffrey House of Fame Troilus and Criseyde
Chaucer, Geoffrey Parliament of Fowles Troilus and Criseyde
Fletcher, Phineas Purple Island ??? "Brittain’s Ida" (erotic poem)?
Gower, John Confessio Amantis Vox Clamantis
Hawes, Stephen Passetyme of Pleasure Comfort of Lovers
Kempe, Margery Book of Margery Kempe ???
Langland, William Piers Plowman ???
Lydgate, John Reson and Sensualitie King Henry VI’s Triumphal …
Shakespeare, William Phoenix and the Turtle ??? Appropriate sonnets?
Spenser, Edmund Faerie Queene Shepheardes Calender Or Complaints
Anon. Castle of Perseverance ???
Anon. Everyman ???
Anon. Pearl ???
Alighieri, Dante Divine Comedy Vita Nuova
Tasso, Torquato Jerusalem Conquered Aminta
Calderón Great Theater of the World ??? "Life Is a Dream" too allegorical?
17th & 18th centuries
La Fontaine, Jean de Fables Tales
Bunyan, John Holy War Grace Abounding
Bunyan, John Life and Death of Mr Badman
Bunyan, John Pilgrim’s Progress
Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe Journal of the Plague Year
Dryden, John Absalom and Achitophel Annis Mirabilis
Milton, John Comus Samson Agonistes Samson Agonistes too allegorical?
Milton, John Paradise Lost ??? Areopagitica? Genre/form mismatch.
Pope, Alexander Dunciad Rape of the Lock
Swift, Johnathan Battle of the Books Modest Prposal
Swift, Johnathan Gulliver’s Travels Argument Against Abolishing Christianity
Swift, Johnathan Tale of a Tub
19th century British
Verne, Jules Journey to the Center of the Earth Twenty Thousand Leagues Or "Around the World in 80 Days"
Butler, Samuel Erewhon Way of All Flesh
Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness Lord Jim
Darwin, Erasmus Temple of Nature Botanic Garden
Gissing, George Nether World New Grub Street
Kipling, Rudyard Below the Mill-Dam Young Men at the Manor Better pairing?
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein Mathilda
19th century American
Baum, L. Frank Wonderful Wizard of Oz Queen Zixi of Ix
Hawthorne, Nathaniel Antique Ring ??? Suitable stories?
Hawthorne, Nathaniel Birthmark ???
Hawthorne, Nathaniel Rappaccini’s Daughter ???
Hawthorne, Nathaniel Scarlet Letter House of the Seven Gables
Melville, Herman Confidence-Man Israel Potter
Melville, Herman Mardi Typee
Melville, Herman Moby-Dick Omoo
Čapek, Karel R.U.R. ???
Čapek, Karel War with the Newts ???
Kafka, Franz Castle ???
Kafka, Franz Country Doctor ???
Kafka, Franz Metamophosis Description of a Struggle
Kafka, Franz Trial Amerika
Camus, Albert Plague First Man
Huxley, Aldus Brave New World Point Counter Point "Crome Yellow" (and maybe "Antic Hay") are public domain
Orwell, George 1984 Burmese Days
Orwell, George Animal Farm Road to Wigan Pier
Mann, Thomas Mario and the Magician Buddenbrooks
Yeats, William Butler Dialogue of Self and Soul Second Coming
Zamyatin, Yevgeny We Islanders
Hurston, Zora Neale Moses, Man of the Mountain Thier Eyes Were Watching God
Golding, William Lord of the Flies The Scorpion God The Inheritors
Lewis, C. S. Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ???
Rushdie, Salman Midnight’s Children Fury Or Ground Beneath Her Feet or Moor’s Last Sigh
Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot All That Fall Suitable nonallegorical drama?
Nabokov, Vladimir Lolita Ada
Coetzee, J.M. Waiting for the Barbarians Boyhood Or Youth/Summertime
Barth, John Giles Goat-Boy Sot-Weed Factor
Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man ???
Faulkner, William Fable The Hamlet
Ginsberg, Allen Howl Kaddish
Kesey, Ken One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Sometimes a Great Notion
O’Connor, Flannery Violent Bear It Away ??? Wise Blood too allegorical

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