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

By Deborah L. Madsen (auth.)

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The spiritual meaning of the New Testament matches the 'carnal' Law of the Old Testament; the redemptive significance of the whole Bible sanctifies the literal text: like Christ in His Advent, the Bible is the incarnation of God, the logos, the force that links the two dimensions of meaning. The status accorded the logos in Christian exegesis serves to distinguish Christian from classical and Judaistic allegorism. The latter share a common assumption that allegorical interpretation is based upon the identification of an arbitrary signifying relationship between the figure and its referent.

So the form and the substance of allegory have become hopelessly confused. Allegory describes a style of rhetoric and the narrative substance represented by that rhetoric. This is an ironic fate for the allegorical genre because, more than any other literary genre, allegory thematizes the complexity of interpretative practices and so reveals what is, ultimately, the arbitrary character of all determinations of meaning. Rather than present a simple 'moral', Allegory in the Old World 23 allegories instead tend to focus upon the difficulties inherent in the attempt to represent a single meaning as the significance of any sign.

The latter share a common assumption that allegorical interpretation is based upon the identification of an arbitrary signifying relationship between the figure and its referent. But for Christian interpreters of 22 Allegory in America the two Testaments, the allegorical referent was determined from the start: according to the logic of typological allegory, Christ is represented in the Old Testament and in the New Testament He is present. Christ, as the subject of typological interpretation, links the two sacred books and this typological link is reinforced by the mystical interpretation of the logos which is assumed to constitute the spiritual dimension of meaning of both texts.

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