JFC 5136 H-S

Allegory and Allegorism in Literature and Fine Arts

Modalités de diffusion du cours

En présentiel


Thursday 14h - 16h

Instructor :

S. Drouin


Northrop Frye Hall



Description :

According to many rhetoric theoreticians of the Antiquity, allegory is an “extended metaphor”. However, allegory does not consist solely in a ‘figure of thought’. It also refers to a hermeneutical process called “allegorism”. Allegorism studies myths, but also, for instance, biblical exegesis. Allegory and allegorism are key concepts for understanding fine arts, religion and literature in Western culture from Quintilian to Walter Benjamin, Northrop Frye, Paul de Man, Craig Owen and Umberto Eco. A figure constantly criticized for its coldness, and at the same time a venerable interpretive process often mocked for its arbitrariness, allegory allows us to study hermeneutics with regard to notions of literal and figurative meaning.

At the end of the course, students will be able to discuss major Western texts on allegory and to understand their role in the history of literary theory. Students will be able to recognize and to analyze allegorical representations in literature and in fine arts.


AUERBACH, Figura, ‘Figura’, in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature, New York, Meridian Book, 1959, p. 11-41.
BENJAMIN, Walter, The Origins of German Tragic Drama, John Osborne (transl.), NLB, 1977. (1 chapter).
DE LUBACH, Henri, Medieval Exegesis : The Four Senses of Scripture, Mark Seban (transl.) Grand Rapids, W.B Eerdmans, 1998, vol. 1. (1 chapter).
DE MAN, Paul, Allegories of reading : Figural language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1979. (1 chapter).
ECO, Umberto, Interpretation and Overinterpretation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992. (1 chapter).
FRYE, Northrop, The Great Code : the Bible and literature, Toronto, Penguin Canada, with an introduction by Alvin A. Lee, 2007. (1 chapter).
PANOFSKY, Erwin, Studies in Iconology : Humanistic themes in the art of Renaissance, New York/Oxford Univesity Press, 1939. (1 chapter).
OWENS, Craig, ‘The allegorical Impulse : Toward a Theory of Posmodernism’, October, vol. 12, Spring 1980, p. 67-86.
SEZNEC, Jean, The survival of the pagan gods : the mythological tradition and its place in Renaissance humanism and art, New York, Pantheon Books, Barbara F. Sessions (transl.), 1953. (1 chapter).


BAUDELAIRE, Charles, Salon de 1859, Paris, Honoré Champion, Wolfgang Drost and Ulrike Riechers (eds), 2006. (Excerpts).
DIDEROT, Denis, Salons, Oxford, Clarendon Press, Jean Seznec and Jean Adhémar (eds), 1947-1967.
GRACIÁN, Baltasar, Arte de ingenio, tradado de la agudeza, Madrid, Cátedra, Emilio Blanco (ed.), 1998. (Excerpts)
RIPA, Cesare, Iconologia o Descrizione di diverse imagii cavate dall’antichità e di propria invenzione, Roma, G. Gilioti, 1593. (Excerpts)
VIGENÈRE, Blaise de, Les images, ou Tableaux de platte peinture de Philostrate Lemnien, Paris, Abel Langelier, 1597. (Excerpts).
WINCKELMANN, Johann Joachim, Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums. Walther, Dresden, 1764. (Excerpts)


Cahiers de l’Association internationale des études françaises, L’allégorie, n°28, 1975.
-Romantisme. Revue du dix-neuvième siècle. L’allégorie, n°152, 2011/2.
-Revue d’histoire littéraire de France. L’allégorie de la Renaissance au Symbolisme, vol. 112, 2012/2.
CARMAN, Garner, B., « Natalis Comes and the mythological tradition », Journal of Warburg and Courtaud Institute, n° 33, 1970, p. 264-290.
COHEN, Josh, Spectacular allegories : postmodern American writing and the politics of seing, London, Pluto Press, 1998.
DILTHEY, Wilhelm , « Origines et développement de l’herméneutique », Le monde de l’esprit, Paris, Aubier, 1947, t. I.
FLETCHER Angus, Allegory. The theory of a symbolic mode, Cornell University Press, 1964.
KELLEY, Theresa, Reinventing allegory, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
LABARTHE, Patrick, Baudelaire et la tradition de l’allégorie, Genève, Droz, 1999.
MADSEN, Deborah, Rereading allegory : a narrative approach to genre, Houndmills, Macmillan, 1995.
MASSON André, L’Allégorie, PUF, coll. « Que sais-je ? », 1974.
PÉPIN, Jean, Mythe et allégorie. Les origines grecques et les contestations judéo-chrétiennes, Paris, Aubier-Montaigne, [1958] 1976.
RICOEUR, Paul, La métaphore vive, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. « Points », [1975], 1997.
TODOROV, Tzvetan, « On linguistic symbolism », New literary history, 1974, vol. VI, p. 111-134.
WITMAN, Jon, Allegory : The dynamics of an ancient and medieval technique, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987.


Analytical Bibliography (15 entries): 25%
Oral Presentation: 25%
Research Essay: 40%
Participation: 10%