Interpretation and Allegory: Antiquity to the Modern Period

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Western literary, philosophical, and religious traditions from Plato and Paul to Augustine and Avicenna have utilized, exploited, or been subjected to allegorical interpretation. Naturally developing a composite picture of interpretive allegory from such a large landscape faces numerous difficulties. As the editor puts it, “to imagine a ‘definitive’ account of the theory and practice of allegorical interpretation in the West would require something of an allegorical vision in its own right.” With that caveat in mind, however, the international team of contributors—from a variety of disciplines—offers a “historical and conceptual framework” for understanding interpretive allegory in the West, from antiquity through the early and late medieval and renaissance periods, and from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

While many studies of interpretive allegory focus on particular periods, approaches, or episodes, scholars of Jewish studies, literature, history, and art history here present a historical and conceptual framework for approaching it at large in the west from antique glosses and exegitical treatises to modern and postmodern critical theories. They consider allegorical theory and practice in distinctly pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic communities. Their goal is not to cover every instance of allegory within those ranges, but to explore common and disparate features. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
Winner of 2001 Polonsky Foundation Award for Contribution to Interdisciplinary Study in the Humanities.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jon Whitman, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer, Department of English, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His numerous studies of allegory include Allegory: The Dynamics of an Ancient and Medieval Technique (Oxford/Harvard, 1987).

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Table of Contents


1. A Retrospective Forward: Interpretation, Allegory, and Historical Change, Jon Whitman

2. Present Perspectives: Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages [Prologue to chapters 3–11], Jon Whitman
3. Language, Text, and Truth in Ancient Polytheist Exegesis, Robert Lamberton
4. Plato’s Soul and the Body of the Text in Philo and Origen, David Dawson
5. Theology and Exegesis in Midrashic Literature, Marc Hirshman
6. Allegory and Reading God’s Book: Paul and Augustine on the Destiny of Israel, Paula Fredriksen
7. The Utilization of Allegory in Islamic Philosophy, Alfred L. Ivry
8. On Maimonides’ Allegorical Readings of Scripture, Warren Zev Harvey
9. Philosophic Allegory in Medieval Jewish Culture: The Crisis in Languedoc (1304–6), Gregg Stern
10. Philosophy, Commentary, and Mythic Narrative in Twelfth-Century France, Winthrop Wetherbee
11. Quadruplex Sensus, Multiplex Modus: Scriptural Sense and Mode in Medieval Scholastic Exegesis, A.J. Minnis

12. Present Perspectives: The Late Middle Ages to the Modern Period [Prologue to chapters 13–20], Jon Whitman
13. Allegory and Divine Names in Ecstatic Kabbalah, Moshe Idel
14. Boccaccio: The Mythographer of the City, Giuseppe F. Mazzotta
15. Renaissance Hieroglyphic Studies: An Overview, Charles Dempsey
16. Sixteenth-Century Emblems and Imprese as Indicators of Cultural Change, Peter M. Daly
17. Vera Narratio: Vico’s New Science of Mythology, Joseph Mali
18. Allegory as the Trope of Memory: Registers of Cultural Time in Schlegel and Novalis, Azade Seyhan
19. Constructions of Allegory / Allegories of Construction: Rethinking History through Benjamin and Freud, Rainer Nägele
20. Allegory and the Aesthetic Ideology, Tobin Siebers


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