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Title:Aristotle and the allegorical aesthetic: Poetry and the limits of philosophy from Alan of Lille to Edmund Spenser
Author(s):Heise, William Earnshaw
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Klein, Joan L.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Medieval
Literature, Romance
Literature, English
Language, Rhetoric and Composition
Abstract:Kant and Goethe distinguish allegory from symbol by associating allegory with rational abstraction and symbol with the attempt to grasp the divine. By applying this understanding of allegory to the allegorical works in the period when Aristotle dominated philosophical thought, we can correlate the development of allegorical literature to the development of Aristotelian thought. The analysis suggests that the allegorists studied were grappling with the problem of how to wrest a description of the divine from philosophical language, a problem which, as Derrida observes, involves moving beyond "the limits of philosophy."
The early optimism of the Chartrian philosophers about the ability of universals to assist the mind in understanding the divine is reflected in the De planctu naturae. In Floire et Blancheflor and Guillaume de Lorris' section of the Roman de la Rose we find an increasing skepticism about the divinity of rational processes of abstraction. Jean de Meun's section of the Roman de la Rose anatomizes the absolute failure of philosophical reason to express the divine.
In the Confessio Amantis, Gower argues that the teachings of Aristotle provide a rational model for governing the state. In Book II of Spenser's Faerie Queene, Guyon is presented as a reader of allegorical emblems who must learn to ground his interpretations in natural forms. In Book III, Spenser attempts to use imagination to overcome the limits of reason. Ultimately, however, he reformulates the doctrine of the "golden chain" from a rational cosmological doctrine to an ethical doctrine in which golden chains represent interpersonal relationships, rather than cosmological bonds. In the Mutabilitie Cantos, Spenser explores the manner in which the divine perspective is achieved by understanding the moral limitations of the rational principles governing nature.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Heise, William Earnshaw
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9712303
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9712303

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