Coming toTerms

I've been having fun in the spring course so far; allegory of the seventeenth century isn't nearly as dull as I was lead to believe. Also, I've been able to catch up on some long-delayed re-reading of some books on medieval allegory, which is always fun.
Of course, any time I read something fun for class, I always get myself into trouble. This time, I'm realizing that contemporary linguistics and literary theory uses the term "allegory" in a completely different way than my (fairly old) medieval theory books do. At the end of my presentation on Paradise Lost today, the instructor's response was along the lines of "everything you said was right, but it's important to note that all of these other things (myth, symbolism, sacramentalism) are also allegorical." (She's wrong, they aren't.)
So, basically, I've been told that "This is the terminology we use, get used to it."

I'm not sure if this will get me into real trouble yet... I've still got lots of ways to use Milton to say what I want to say. After we're done with Paradise Lost, though, we're moving on to Dryden, and from there to Johnathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. I'll be in mostly unfamiliar waters, and I'm pretty sure the sharks can taste blood.
Then again, it could be that Swift's understanding of Latin rhetoric will bring him closer to my understanding of Allegory than Milton/Bunyan were.
(come to think of it, that could be even more dangerous...)

It seems the more I know about a given subject, the more trouble I'll always get myself into.
How depressing.

5 comments:

mle said...

Heh. Please accept sympathy from a lawyer who seems doomed to less-than-"A"-grades in undergrad courses relating to law and/or argumentation. Professors like to make life harder for people who already know stuff.

Anonymous said...

don't worry about getting into trouble -- just be able to back it up (at least, that's what i did). as always, it's a matter of defining terms - which i don't think you and the professor have really done yet). is there a confusion here of metaphorical = allegorical?

anyway -- personally, i LOVED both my 17th and 18th century seminars (not to mention chaucer et al).

'struth! jealous, i am, jealous.

e

Daniel Jackson said...

The tricky part is navigating the very dangerous path on the brink of "that-guy-ness."
I could correct my instructor's use of terms.
I could also correct her pronunciation of "slough" and "ex nihilo."
But I don't want to be "that guy."

Anonymous said...

well, i'm not talking about dishonouring/ shaming/ embarassing her, or making petty corrections -- i'm talking about engaging her with well-considered and elegant arguments. revisit larger issues later and flex your conceptual muscles in your essays and presentations. i think there's a difference between being "that guy" and "that student"...

e

Daniel Jackson said...

You're right, e, but you're forgetting what it's like to disagree with an instructor about a theoretical point that shapes an entire course. It's not "anything goes," and it's hard to work alternate point of view into a presentation/discussion when your instructor likes to talk over you... She wants to talk about allegory in a specific way, and expects me to fall in line.

I know that I could write an essay on the definitions I'm using. Perhaps it would be a good essay. The trouble is getting the instructor to care about my opposing point of view; otherwise, I'll just get "B+, try to be more engaged with the subject at hand." That doesn't do anyone any good.

It's much easier to step back in line and do what's expected, all the while chanting "one more course and I'm done, one more course and I'm done, one more..."