Literary History, Allegory, and Semiology Author(s): Jonathan Culler Source: New Literary History, Vol. 7, No.

2, Poetics: Some Methodological Problems (Winter, 1976), pp. 259-270 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/06/2013 07:10
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


The Johns Hopkins University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to New Literary History.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

whom no one could accuse of indifference on in the The Theory of Literaopens chapter "Literary History" to answer: "Is ture with a question which even he finds difficult that is. The best candidate might seem to be what historians call history. Wellek and Warren. from a purely sequential version of literary history. in talking about cultural historyas the domain Many of our difficulties in which literatureand society interact seem to me due to the inadequate models we often bring to the task. or (3) the actual social influenceof literature of literary workson society). (2) the social content of literature (either reflectionof life of the period or some more sophisticated causal relation between the content of the work and the nature of society) . his socioeconomic condition as writer) . Allegory. A purely literary history if would be irrelevant not sequence impossible because its temporality would correspond to no principle of development or causality.236 on Fri. and our question about the possibilityof literaryhistoryis transformedinto the by which larger if more concrete question of how to write cultural history. R This content downloaded from 117. he is unhappily aware that literatureis not sequential. to write that which will be both it possible to write literaryhistory. I do not mean simply the historyof ideas but a historyof society which stresses itscultural production. one must discover some other principle on which to base a historicalseries. in the sense that political. who cannot be accused of ignorance of work done in the field. that the literaryworks of 1922 are not conditioned by those of 1921.86. Literary history. (the effects While each of these approaches offersa principle on which a historical EN E WELLEK. But if one deviates from chronology.set out three possible approaches in theirchapter on "Literature and Society": the studyof literature and society may involve (1) a sociology of the writer (the writer as a member of his society. literaryand a history?" Though he would very much like to give an affirmative these terms. is not an autonomous entitybut a part of the historyof a culture. then we have available a history serve as the basis of literaryhistory. if we relate literatureto the societyfromwhich it emerged. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . social. Culler Jonathan to history. or economic events are sequentially conwhich took works in theirchronological ditioned. which we might which could wish to do for other reasons.211.and Semiology Literary History.

260 NEW LITERARY HISTORY series could be based. the Hulots. (2) a history of society punctuated at various points by literaryworks whose content reflectsor derives froma state of society. The categorizingrelative clauses (elle etait effects une de ces femmesqui . If we want to grasp the relation between Balzac's novels and his societywe must shiftinto a more formal mode and consider the semioticoperations which produce these characters. Let me give a briefexample to indicate the kind of relationship I have in mind. as systemsof signs. none of the historical studies they engender fill the need which led us to cultural historyin the first place.which relate directlyto society. the devices which create a world charged with meaning. One might put this claim another way by saying that the relationship between literature and society is not one of identity of content but of homology of form: it is the formal organization of literaryworks.. Though we are willing to make Balzac one of the great realists. however. ). and what they relate to is not the content of social life but the operations which produce social and cultural objects. we produce a relationshipof commensurability: it becomes possible to use a common vocabulary in discussing them.or of the various literarygenres.236 on Fri. the general laws stated in the present tense to which is appended a sentence reportingan action. None of these approaches helps us to conceive of literaryhistoryas part of cultural history. They make possible (1) a historyof the condition of writers. Culture itselfis a set of symbolicsystems which enable actions or objects to have meaning. or the Crevels of the humaine do not constitutedirectlyreflectedsocial Comerdie content. We make possible a historyof the conventions for the production of meaning which are deployed in the literature and the culture of the period.all reflectthe This content downloaded from 117. we are unwilling to say that his characters are directlydrawn fromFrench society at this moment in its history.. and in bringingthe two together we establish an integratingprinciple which can serve as the basis of a common historical series. The principal convention is that of a pervasive pseudodeterminism: an assumption that human actions and productions are intelligible and a systematichesitationbetween treatingthem as signs and treatingthem as of recognizable causes. the Grandets. an alternative: I should propose that the best way of imagining a relationship between literature and society which could form the basis of cultural historyand hence of literaryhistoryis to think of both literatureand the culture of which it formsa part as institutions composed of semiological systems. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the pedagogic clauses which propose an explanation and end in a categorization. whose conventions are devices for the production and organization of meaning. and among these systemsis that of literature. By thinking of literature and culture in this way. the operations for the production of meaning at work in literature.and (3) a historyof societywhich stresses the possible historical effectsof literaryworks.86.211. There is. When we note elements of caricature in so many of Balzac's characters we imply that the Goriots.

who are nothing other than characters whose every action can be explained as both the sign of their nature and its ineluctable result.1 systematic and also Balzac's formal These procedures for producing intelligibility. for example. And it is. Fourier. but that basis lies in the semiotic operations which produce them and which are a confused assimilation of interpretivelanguages offeredby a societywhich did not yet know how to explain itself. and Villeneuve-Bargemont. we find that though political positions may vary radically. this intense effortto make the world intelligible. from the point of view of the historyof ideas or of social and political thought. to that of Dickens) is the hesitation between symbolic and causal explanation within the frameworkof this production of meaning. there is a formal similarityin the interpretiveoperations the social which underlie and organize this discourse. might say This content downloaded from 117. However different content and the recommendations of Bastiat.LITERARY HISTORY. recourse to a host of pseudoscientificdeterminismssuch as phrenology. in Fourier's system. Each has a strong religious and moral core.211. To put this in more general and less tendentious terms. which works to guarantee the symbolicsignificanceof human activities: in Bastiat's Les Harmonies economiques. economic activity is that of celestial read as a manifestationof a divine harmonywhich reflects organization. Whence the inevitable death-bed scenes where a character's final words or gesture both symbolize his nature and are determined by the causes responsible for that nature.economic activitieswould both depend on and illustrate the principle of attraction. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Saint-Simon. they share the conviction that the chaotic experience of the period can be rendered intelligibleby a system. What distinguishes the formaloperations of Balzac's prose and produces his particular type of caricature (as opposed. If we look at sociopolitical and economic writingsof this period.86. AND SEMIOLOGY 261 fundamental conviction that human behavior can be explained as well as an uncertaintyabout whether it should be explained in terms of causes or whether it should be treated as the sign of a general tendency. and Villeneuvemakes the governmentand its Bargemont's Economie politique chre'tienne actions the visible manifestationsof Holy Providence. Saint-Simon's New Christianitywould make industrial organization more strictlyfunctional but also intelligible in terms of the principle of solidarity.236 on Fri. ALLEGORY.the refusal to report any behavior that cannot be brought under a meaning. and the systemswhich they elaborate rely on a curious combination of causal analysis and symbolic reading. of course.belong to different tendencies. that is responsiblefor the production of caricatures. The intense conviction that social and economic facts are or can be made intelligibleand the hesitation about which of two modes is appropriate for grasping their meaning is a formal constant in works which. are a direct correlate of the confusion of symbolic systemsin a world which could not yet be understood as that of nascent industrialcapitalism. a world in which money and its newly chaotic effects were as yet a powerful but unexplained mystery. Balzac's characters have a real social and historical basis.

In fact. By placing these operations in contextswhere we must accept and comply with them if we are to reach what we would regard as a satisfactory understanding-by setting them in literaryworks where we must follow them in order to understand the work-it makes these operations seem natural. Since Goethe and Coleridge allegory has had a bad press. literatureteaches us about the possibilities of life. he continues." 3 And whereas the symbol is always inherently related to that which it signifies-"abides itself as a living part in that Unity of which it is the representative"- This content downloaded from 117. it does so by giving us a series of formsin which experience can be cast so as to become meaningful. I am doing two things: sketchinga problem which those with a fullerknowledge of the literatureand cultural context of the period might work on. as we seem to believe.211. of the "natural attitude.while in that the differenceis everywherepresented to the eye or imagination while the likenessis presentedto the mind. and arguing that we cannot understand much of the most literatureof the nineteenthcenturyunless we rescue the notion interesting of allegory fromthe disgrace into which it has fallen. so as to convey. it does so by providing us with a series of operations or tropes which relate actions and objects to meaning. but we lack and require "a historyof signification."2 In order to indicate what might be accomplished by such an approach I want to outline the problem of allegory as a mode of significationin the cultural historyof the late eighteenthand early nineteenthcenturies. In fact." We have historiesof what is signified (histories which place in a series the themes and referents of literature. actions.) The process of developinterpret ing literaryconventions depends on models or operations already current in the social discourse of the period (in the "text" of everydaylife. (And. Its fortunes have declined as those of the symbol have risen. And hence the study of literaryhistorycan be seen as an attempt to trace the interaction and reciprocal transformation of the semiological models which underlie the interpretive discourse of the period and its literaryworks. as works like Don Quixote and Madame Bovary tell us.262 NEW LITERARY HISTORY that if. What I am proposing is no doubt what Barthes has in mind when he argues that the essence of literature lies in the process of signification rather than in what is signified and that thereforeits history consists primarilyof a formal historyof signification.86. this is the great danger of literature: that it will induce us to our lives according to novelisticmodels. and the reasons for both revaluations are clear fromColeridge's classic definition: "We may safely defineallegoric writingas the employmentof one set of agents and images with actions and accompaniments correspondent.that is to say a historyof the semantic techniques through which literatureimposes a meaning (be it an emptymeaning) on what it says. fortunes.either moral qualities or conceptions of the mind that are not in themselves objects of the senses.236 on Fri. or other images. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .the meanings of literary works).and circumstances." as well as the discourse of its sciences). of course. "the historyof literatureas a signifying systemhas never been written.

86.whereas the allegorical takes a figural view of meaning. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . between man and the world.of abolishing alienation within man. two fundamental tropes or operations."4 The allegorical sign."of a deliberate yokingtogetherof the heterogeneous. whereas the achievements of an allegorical mode.we might say. in which the signifieris naturally connected to the signified. in denigrating allegory in this way Coleridge discovers a nice strategyfor exorcizing any doubts about the power of the poetical spirit: any work which fails to achieve fusion can be set apart as of a inferiorkind.while the eye and signifier imagination are aware primarilyof the difference. The symbol. The symbolic operation sees meaning as somethinginherent. and Bunyan. its natural significance. different.the meaning of a formor object is precisely other than that form and important for that very reason. and many of the doctrinal shiftsof the period.can be linked and described in terms of this shiftin formal operations for the production of meaning. In preferringthe firstof these modes Coleridge is very much of his time. two ways of organizing the attribution of meaning. AND SEMIOLOGY 263 allegorical meanings are "but empty echoes which the fancy arbitrarily associates with apparitions of matter. By opting for the symbol one expresses a faith that poetry can create forms in which the particular is indissolublyfused with the general.on the other hand. Indeed.with that translucenceof which Coleridge speaks.LITERARY HISTORY. But I am interestedless in the thematic determinationsof Coleridge's gesture than in its formal consequences and their historicalrole. is arbitrary: the connection between and signifiedis imposed by the mind or fancy. Allegoryfor Coleridge is an instance of "mechanic form. on the other hand. treatsit as the resultof a relationshipestablished between two orders in a process of analogical reflection. The symbol achieves a fusion of subject and object because in the symbol the truth of the subject or perceiver is also the truthof the object. Now it requires no great perspicacityto see that Coleridge's preference for the symbol is an instance of a metaphysicswhich makes the relation between subject and object its fundamental problem and seeks ways of achieving fusion. between objects or forms and meanings. one remains aware of the irreducible differencebetween the object itself as signifierand the meaning imposed by the fancy of the be drawn out of the depths of the object itself. whereas the symbol is a case of "organic form" based on the intuitive grasp of natural relationship. a synecdoche. We have here. in which objects are not simplyassigned a meaning but give forth. In allegory.236 on Fri. well documented by students of intellectual history. A semiological approach to the culture of the period would trace the fortunesof these fundamental tropes in interpretivediscourse of various This content downloaded from 117. Spenser. as in Dante.211. are rapaciously assimilated to the symbolic. is a motivated sign. ALLEGORY. in the symbolic and the allegorical. an inexhaustible meaning organically present within them.

in its better moments literatureexposes the difficulties of this synecdochic mode of discourse by tryingto employ it. the new organicism tries. one would find a new historicism. The attempt to produce natural or motivated signs of a symbolicorder could be traced in the influenceof La Nouvelle Heloise." One would find.236 on Fri. of thought and passion. Secure in the assumption of analogy. But however close the relationship it discovered between literaryand discourse. overdeterminedpreference for the symbolic. and accounts of travels.a semiological approach to these fundamental tropes interpretive would lead one to posit the partial autonomy of literatureand to locate that autonomy in literature's critical and self-reflexive activity. One would finda shiftin historicaldiscourse froma figuralreading of historyto a kind of organicist reading (tel arbre." as in Blake's Poetical Sketches. significance is what can be drawn fromwithin the organism itself. one could gather much informationabout the semiological conventions throughwhich the move from observable features to meanings was made. to establish the correspondence between exterior and interior formswhich are all integral parts of the animal's essence.Victor Hugo.264 NEW LITERARY HISTORY kinds. to the new botany and biology in which hidden propertiesbecome the most significantand the true definingcharacteristicsof the organism. which require. Akenside could entitle a poem exploring the meanings of natural scenes "The Pleasures of the Imagination" and assert with no sense of uneasiness that man finds "in lifeless things the inexpressive semblance of himself.211. be they of "the progressof poesy.5 Or again. What is often thought of as the subjectivismof romantic poetry is perhaps better This content downloaded from 117.however. Instead of imposingon visible relationsa nomenclaturewhich made fauna and flora moments of an allegory of order. for example. and in where the same storyappeared figured place of a cyclical universal history in different guises.6 In relating what one discovered to the formal forces at work in the literatureof the period one would findnumerous parallels. as in Thomson's The Seasons. in Chateaubriand. poets to show that nature is truly expressive and contains within herself the meanings unveiled by the poetic voice. or of moral experience. as in guide books. Despite Coleridge's categorical and. that this sportive confidence is soon lost. treatises on gardening. and in that master of the pathetic fallacy. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . as Cuvier wrote. if one may say so. In the discourse of natural historyMichel Foucault has traced the movement which leads from classical taxonomy. it is possible to play with metaphorical relations: to use the seasons. particularlyin the movement whereby the assumption of analogy between two orders gives way to a sense of synecdochicrelation within a single order. that one could no longer speak of nature as an "inexpressive semblance" without undermining symbolic operations.86. if one were to study discussions of natural scenes. in which observable differencesand similarities between plants and animals are reflected in a corresponding order of names. tel fruit). So long as the natural world is treated as a figurefor another order. as a figurefor cycles of various kinds.

the role of enacting the This content downloaded from 117. The question of the arbitrariness of meanings is raised by the differencein interpretation. AND SEMIOLOGY 265 seen as a self-consciousresponse to a fundamental semiological problem: in the absence of a correspondence between two orders (a correspondence established by external authority and tradition). I felt this.but there is an attempt to reduce time's threat and to make it the instrumentof revelation rather than of uncertainty: intimationsof the true (hostile) order are used to question the earlier intimations of a benevolent order. made apparent. is pretation is preserved. assimilated to a model of stimulus and response which cannot be easily questioned (in the way one can question Hugo's simple assertion of the religious significanceof an object). The attempt to ground the sign relation on a particular empirical experience forces one to locate that experience in the past. The possibilityof change. introduces into the poetic structure the implacable enemy of the symbolic mode. internaldrama: the drama of attributing meaning to situations and scenes. one must find ways to guarantee the naturalness of signs if they are not to seem arbitrary. Here the adequacy of symbolic readings. time. one can read in "Peele Castle" the tendency of demystified relation symbolismtowards allegory. Symbolic interits reliance on an act of faith. ALLEGORY. et comprend sans effortle langage des fleurs et des choses muettes"." In one sense this retreat to subjectivityprotects the signifying lation: the relationship between object and meaning is given a history. many of the most interestingromantic poems come to focus on this problem. inherent. the possibilityof experience at other moments being other." and allegorical. reintroduces the problem of arbitrarinessthat the posture was designed to avoid. The internalizationof the signifying leads one back towards an allegorical mode in which a series of external objects or agents figureanother.7 and as one advances throughLes Fleurs du Mal one becomes increasinglyaware that."mechanic. But paradoxically. to assert that the object is a natural cause of its meaning. Wordsworth's "Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle" juxtaposes two readings of a scene-the narrator's experience in the past and the painter's interpretationwhich the narrator has more recentlyexperienced.and natural rather than artificialand arbitrary-provoke a selfconscious questioning of the symbolic mode which reaches its height in Baudelaire.86. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . And one of the easiest ways of doing this is to internalize the connection between signifierand signified: to say. for example. The experience of poetic activity itself leads the speaker to question the stereotypeof the poet "qui plane sur la vie.211.LITERARY HISTORY. and this raises the question of how that experience is affected by the passage of time. "when standing beforethis particular scene. And indeed.236 on Fri. the truth of interpretive discourse devoted to drawing out the intrinsicmeaning of things. Indeed. is put to the test of self-reflexive irony. I thought rethat. for the poetic persona. The very considerationswhich support a preference for the symbolic-the desire that poetic meanings be true. but its fragility. this strategydesigned to protect the attributionof meaning.

7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .. after the series of poems entitled "Spleen" which devote so much rhetorical exuberance to elaborating a state of torpor (which. that is to say." as poetic conventionsof resemblance encourage one to do. tes douleurs sont les miennes! .. comes the poem "Alchimie de la douleur" which.266 NEW LITERARY HISTORY anxious and tragic sport of poetic imagination is more importantthan the role of revealing. is close to truth. invoking the "unknown Hermes" who aids and intimidates him.and to make one's verse an allegory of the interpretive process: a figuredstoryof the problems encountered in the attribution of meaning. focuses on the "poetic alchemy" which bringsit about. as the following stanza makes clear. speaks of the poetic persona as "le plus tristedes alchimistes": Par toije change1'or en fer.where the difference and meaning is stressed. j'ai senti tous les becs et toutes les machoires ."9 But the subject of the poem. Devant toi. . to make one inhabit a world where despair seems an intrinsic meaning. sacerdotally. Dans le suairedes nuages un cadavrecher. rottingin the sun and shredded by birds. Jed6couvre Et surdes celestes rivages Jebatisde grands sarcophages. is not the experience which makes the speaker like the ravaged corpse but the power of the visionary or poetic attitude to produce a subjective world which imprisons: This content downloaded from 117..211. But the poem itselfsteps back from this symbolicattributionof meaning." for example.236 on Fri. the truth of things. of between form course. qui jadis aimaient tant a triturer ma chair. and intimatesthat the process is one of construction and creation rather than discovery. as symbolic convention tells us. Et le paradisen enfer..86..8 Two of these lines illustrate the infernal ease of the symbolic process: by calling clouds "suaire. The only solution is to stress. its ability to produce these versions of a world. the problem which the poem confrontsis the power of the poetic imagination to bring about the desolation of a landscape.. To do this. a connection is made in a tone that stressesits arbitrariness: "Ridicule pendu. one has created a kind of fusion which. In "Un Voyage 'a Cythere. in antisymbolicfashion signifyrather than enact torpor). after a long description of a corpse on a gibbet. . one discovers in nuages/cadavre and suaire/cher a phonological solidaritywhich reinforces the semantic relationship. At the end of Spleen et ideal. is to constructallegorical signs. Baudelaire's allegory works essentially through juxtaposition: objects and meanings are brought together with no attempt to justifythe connection by giving it an empirical history. is a source of agony. the difference the symbolic process and expose it as a response and thus to demystify cultural activity determined by an this poem between the objects themselves (clouds) and thematic does. Indeed. The very efficacyof the poetic vision.

gesturing towards a scene with which we can do nothing. or else read them as allegory. descendent jusqu'au tiers a peu pres des fenetres basses." 12 Transparent as description. Ala fa<on des culs de bouteilles. Consider these two sentences from the description of Yonville in Madam Bovary: "Les toitsde chaume.LITERARY HISTORY.10 The fact is inconsistent with the interpretation.comme en un suaire epais.nothing. . If we attend to such sentencesand refusesimplyto treat them as a notation of "reality" we can read in them an allegory of writing tryingto transformthe real This content downloaded from 117. s'accroche parfois quelque maigre poirier. the traditional procedures by which details in novels signifysynecdochically that of which they are a an allegory of writing. comme des bonnets de fourrure rabattus sur des yeux. Le coeurenseveli danscette allegorie. Each itselfaway as it runs down towards the minute and trivial." The sentence strugglesover commas. But there is a subtler and more radical version of allegory as semiotic strategywhich can be observed in Flaubert: signes romanesques are systematically emptied of their content so that they can only be read literally. des miettes de pan bis tremp6 de cidre. is thereforethe strategywhich the poetic persona must adopt. we fail utterly. or else allegorically. la mer'tait unie.211. and revealing. juxtaposed not for any thematic reason but only as contiguous elements of "the real. Helas! et j'avais. as demystification of le signe romanesque. This self-consciousness is the only defense against the traditional modes of symbolic perception: "Dans ton ile..the differences are evident to the eye and imagination while the similarityis proposed only by the mind.qui viennentpicorer. they yield only an empty meaning." 11 It is not the real gibbet but the symbolicgibbet which depresses. We can only registerthem as "description" and pass quickly on. The movement of poetic consciousness creating signs with full awareness that they are arbitrary becomes a major linguisticsigns. Sur le mur de pl'tre. The middle way of symbolic interpretation. at the end of its elegant progress.and the demystification of the symbolic. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . sentence fritters but that is only a by-productof the spectacle mounted by a prose style strainingto hold togethera series of disparate details.13 If we try to read them as collections of Balzacian details which contributeto characterizationand thematicsynthesis. is excluded by a prose that responds only to literal or allegorical reading.236 on Fri. que traversenten diagonale des lambourdes les rez-de-chausseeont taleur porte une petite barrieretournante pour les defendredes poussins. ALLEGORY.sur le seuil. Pourmoitout'tait noiret sanglant desormais. As novelistic signs they are empty.. allowing one thing to lead to another. AND SEMIOLOGY 267 Le ciel taitcharmant. Here allegory is explicit. these sentences give us no semic or thematic material but simply produce what Barthes calls an "effetde reel": the assurance that we are dealing with a real and detailable world.86.the presentationof the symbolic as allegorical. dont les gros verres bombes sont garnis d'un noeud dans le milieu. O VWnus! je n'ai trouve debout/Qu'un gibet symbolique ou pendait mon image.

that because of the synchronic orientation of its linguisticmodel semiologyis in some way congenitallyopposed to. showing the factitiousness in and the artifice bathos of the signe romanesque novels. opposed. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .the insight of which he speaks. There are two conclusions which might be drawn from this rather schematic expos&.236 on Fri. On the short. by very salutaryre-evaluation. its a orientation. withoutwhich Romantic poetrynever quite shakes offits aura of subjective fantasy. it is only within a semiological perspectivethat one can develop a proper historicalmethod. which are also at work in other modes of interpretive and whose momentsof interactionand relative autonomy must be defined by any attemptat systematic literary history. The first is that a semiological approach may would discover that in the case of literature.268 NEW LITERARY HISTORY of the order which holds things into language. forexample. is the thematic or philosophical expression of reliance on the allegorical trope which. One of the tasks of a semiological literary historywould be to trace.and is able to recognize the importance of the allegorical strain in poetryand prose since 1800.but the more fundamentalagents of the effects which lead him to postulate this recognition. it conto the inspiration of tributes that profound touch of self-understanding Keats and Hdlderlin and Leopardi. In France perhaps no poet attains this insight before Baudelaire (though Stendhal and Flaubert knew it too). which freed the production of meaning from a nostalgic or utopian metaphysicswhich mightimprisonit. once the classical convention is broken. The fundamental problem for the early and mid-nineteenthcentury is that history had awakened the desire to read the natural and intrinsicmeaning of objects. Secondly. but in Europe generally.211. one constructsa historical series around the central activity of literature by focusing on This content downloaded from 117. and nonliterary discourse."15 The recognition.history. together exposing by refusingto constitute it.14 trying Anthony Thorlby writes that "the achievement of a truly distinctive post-classical style seems to have occurred where it was recognized that art and reality are.86. and poets or novelistsmust striveto hold world and meaning togetherin the face of their tendency to fall apart. maintains the continual awareness that the fusionof art and realitysought by advocates of the symbol is but a mystichope. as many have done.which is an object that resistscausal analysis. by focusingon the semioticoperations of literary one would come to value those which displayed a maximum of self-consciousness. keeping formand meaning distinct. meaning. The strategiesof this desire and this attempt are best studied in the operations for the production of discourse. an allegory of writing to order the world. not the explicit recognition which Thorlby attributes to his heroes. Rather than insert literature in other historical series external to it. One thus rescues the notion of allegory from the limbo to which it has been relegated by the mystificatorydiscourse of organicism and the symbol. They offer.16In this case. a studyof this kind would show that it is nonsense to suggest.

one might say. AND SEMIOLOGY 269 devices for the production of meaning.the sea was calm.86. for me henceforthall was dark and bloody. pp. the choice of epithet is not arbitrary." Communications. 10. who soars above life and effortlessly understands the language of flowers and thingsmute" ("Elevation. Raysor (London. For further discussion. 30. . p.ed. 1971). 3 Miscellaneous Criticism.236 on Fri. This content downloaded from 117. 224-28. pp." PMLA. R. and the ground floors have at their door a little swinging gate to keep out the chicks." 9 "Ridiculous hanged man. 1966). 1). 1969). 195. 1969). a historyof the process of signification. p. which come to pick up.17 BRASENOSE COLLEGE. though the specific interpretations different.bits of wholemeal bread dipped in cider" (Madame Bovary. Ch. that formerly so loved to gnaw my flesh. and on heavenly shores I raise great tombs. T. alas! and. 1972). . is that it has never been sufficiently formalist. whose bulging panes of old glass are decorated in the middle with a boss. 7 ". 1936). ALLEGORY. The problem which has long beset literaryhistory. 5 Les Mots et les choses (Paris. which is diagonally traversedby black beam-joists. VI. as in a thick shroud. 157 (all translationsfrom French are mine). . 275-92. 241-54." 11 "On your island." Interpretation: Theory and Practice. 6. 204. White (London. in The Collected Works of S. 8 "Through you I change gold to iron and Paradise to Hell. All literarysigns are motivated to some extent. .see Paul de Man. Singleton (Baltimore. Seeing you. pp. pp. ed. 86 (1971). 2. . ed. . 179-90. 15 "The Concept of Romanticism. 66-67." Les Fleurs du Mal). O Venus. I felt all the beaks and all the jaws .but the eye and imagination are intensely aware that the soldier is not a lion and that there are other ways of speaking of courage. J. in the shroud of clouds I discover a dear corpse.Marxism and Form (Princeton. ed. OXFORD UNIVERSITY NOTES 1 Cf.211. are Jameson's formalistperspective is similar. my heart was buried in this allegory. This article is essential to any serious study of allegory. on the threshold. properlyspeaking. I found standing only a symbolicgibbet where my image hung. T. 4 The Statesman's Manual. pp. 59.a withered pear tree sometimesclings. 13 "L'Effet de reel. 1974).like fur caps pulled down over the eyes. 6 For interesting suggestionson this as on other matters. 2 Essais critiques (Paris. 91-109. Fredric Jameson. like the bottoms of wine bottles.but the symbol strivesfora fusionand a naturalnessforeignto allegory. C. allegory is arbitraryonly by contrast with symbol. On the plaster wall. 30. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Of course. . It is only through the radical formalism of a semiological perspective that the operations constitutiveof both literatureand culture can be held togetherin what would be. 14 See Culler. 11 (1968). and "La Cousine Bette and Allegorical Realism. Coleridge cites "Behold our lion" (referringto a soldier) as allegorical. 1964).LITERARY HISTORY. 238-45. . 75-77." French Literature and Its Background." 12 "The thatched roofs. Flaubert.see my Flaubert: The Uses of Uncertainty (London and Ithaca. your pain is mine! . Pt. Coleridge. Cruickshank (Oxford. 84-89. . come down over a third of the low windows. IV." 10 "The sky was beautiful. "The Rhetoric of Temporality.

I am gratefulto ProfessorDonald Charlton and to the organizers of the Congress for the opportunityto try out some of these ideas on perceptive and learned audiences.211.270 NEW LITERARY HISTORY 16 It is only fair to note that the revaluation of allegoryhas already begun. 427-41." Podtique. 17 Earlier versions of this paper were read at the Universityof Warwick and at the First Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (Milan.236 on Fri. 1974).86. 8 (1971). within the perspectiveof a radical formalism. "All6gorie et histoire de la po6sie. This content downloaded from 117. See the works of Paul de Man and Fredric Jameson cited above and Gayatri Spivak. 7 Jun 2013 07:10:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful