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.
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
|Ancient and classical|
|Aeschylus||Prometheus Bound||Agamemnon||Disputed authorship of Prometheus Bound|
|Hesiod||Theogony||Works and Days|
|Boethius||Consolation of Philosophy||De Musica||De Musica seems unsuitable|
|Capella, Martianus||Marriage of Mercury and Philology||???|
|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||???|
|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?|
|19th century American|
|Baum, L. Frank||Wonderful Wizard of Oz||Queen Zixi of Ix|
|Hawthorne, Nathaniel||Antique Ring||???||Suitable stories?|
|Hawthorne, Nathaniel||Rappaccini’s Daughter||???|
|Hawthorne, Nathaniel||Scarlet Letter||House of the Seven Gables|
|Melville, Herman||Confidence-Man||Israel Potter|
|Čapek, Karel||War with the Newts||???|
|Kafka, Franz||Country Doctor||???|
|Kafka, Franz||Metamophosis||Description of a Struggle|
|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|
|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?|
|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|
|Kesey, Ken||One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest||Sometimes a Great Notion|
|O’Connor, Flannery||Violent Bear It Away||???||Wise Blood too allegorical|