Allegory in America: From Puritanism to Postmodernism by Deborah L. Madsen (auth.)

By Deborah L. Madsen (auth.)

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In the Periarchon he describes a trichotomy of spiritual meaning. 16 He proposes another trichotomy of allegorical meanings, in the same work, which is based upon a scale of Allegory in the Old World 21 spiritual awareness. Correspondingly, the 'simple' man is edified by the 'flesh' of Scripture; those who have progressed some way towards spiritual enlightenment are edified by the 'soul' of Scripture; and the 'perfect' soul is edified by the 'spirit' of the sacred book. The three parts of man - body, soul and spirit - are interpreted by Origen as a sign intended by God to indicate the way to salvation through the figurative connection between these human parts and the mystical dimensions of Scripture.

But in fully-fledged allegorical narratives, not only the original textual figures but also the secondary commentary upon them is incorporated into the narrative texture. The two are incorporated into a single narrative continuum: the text is presented and subsequently is interpreted. In this way, Prudentius's narrative departs from the homiletical texts we have been considering. Aesthetic values are of much greater importance in the Psychomachia which, while it does not compare in sophistication with the work of later allegorists like Chaucer and Spenser, does have significant literary or aesthetic qualities in terms of narrative craft, the use of symbolism and the representation of psychological conflict.

The Vices seek an arbitrary one-to-one correspondence between words and things; the Virtues seek a Christ-centred and scripturally based interpretation of the meaning of the signs around them. The victory, then, of typology over other allegorical forms can be seen as Prudentius's response to the resurgence of paganism among his contemporaries. 23 The preface to the Psychomachia makes reference to the biblical story of Abraham and Sara as a model to be repeated in the future and in our own lives.

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