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Chapter 3 - Allegorical Absences

Virgil, Ovid, Prudentius and Claudian

from Part I - Absence in Text

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2021

Tom Geue
Affiliation:
University of St Andrews, Scotland
Elena Giusti
Affiliation:
University of Warwick
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Summary

Allegory ‘speaks the other’, that which was previously unspoken, and sometimes that which is unspeakable. Allegory also makes present what was absent; allegories are often absent presences. Allegory offers a fullness of meaning, but often succeeds only in delivering linguistic emptiness. Allegory may be a stepping-stone from the unreal or less real to the more real, in the anagogical exegeses of Neoplatonism. Biblical typology connects two historical events, one Old- and one New-Testament, the latter being understood as the ‘fulfilment’ of the former. Just how empty that leaves the former is disputed: should we talk of supersession, or of transformation? The presence of allegory requires the collusion of the reader. Allegories may become absent when their presence is denied, as for example in a persistent critical denial of the ‘typologies’ of Aeneid 8. The plausible deniability of allegory can also serve political purposes. The absences and presences of personification allegory are explored in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Prudentius’ Psychomachia. Ovid energises the long history of personifications conscious of their ‘selves’, while Prudentius brings words given bodies up against the Word made flesh. Finally I examine Claudian’s dissolution of the subjects of his panegyrical epics into a cloud of images and myths.

Type
Chapter
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Unspoken Rome
Absence in Latin Literature and its Reception
, pp. 47 - 66
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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