Gregory Ulmer in his essay in The Anti-Aesthetic [ed. by Hal Foster] pointed to the distinction between allegoresis and allegory as marshalled by Maureen Quilligan. The Language of Allegory: Defining the Genre. [Cornell University Press, 1979].
The difference is characterized like a misread map with a determination to respect boundaries.
The inappropriate terminology of allegoresis (verticalness, levels, hidden meaning, the hieratic difficulty of interpretation) continues to contaminate the reader's appreciation of the peculiar processes and values of narrative allegory. Hunting for one-to-one correspondences between insignificant narrative particulars and hidden thematic generalizations, he is frustrated when he cannot find them and generally bored when he can. This state of affairs leads logically to Coleridge's strictures against an inorganic, mechanical, and thoroughly unappealing kind of literature.Later we encounter an overblown simile creating distance between fidelity and overinterpretation...
We need to develop a new set of critical terms derived not from allegoresis but from the process of reading allegorical narratives. Only in his way can we hope to retrieve for intelligent reading and consideration that species of narrative we have called allegorical. And only by looking closely at individual narratives, without imposing any preconceptions on their paratactic development, shall we be able to trace the complicated patterns of interconnected meaning which spread like a web across their horizontal verbal surfaces. Then we may easily sense the essential affinity of allegory to the pivotal phenomenon of the pun, which provides the basis for the narrative structure characteristic of the genre. [32-33]
The nineteenth century is not the century of allegorical narrative; on the contrary, denoted [demoted?] in favor of "symbolism," allegory was labeled a mechanical contrivance of the "fancy" whereby an author with a thematic statement to make hunts down a serviceable vehicle and tows a veritable dirigible of overrriding meaning down an all too predictable road. This definition of allegory, which actually describes an analogy stretched as thin as it will go, was inherited by the twentieth century, and this definition is the one that recent books on the subject have sought to deflate. Note the word play on dirigible and deflate which is surely akin to the characteristic pivotal pun. I am interested however in the link between airship and the work of allegoresis which is a reading that according to Quilligan is absorbed in verticalness and levels of meaning whereas a critical reading of allegory is horizontal and attentive to the unfolding of story and ever complicating patterns of relationship. The "mechanical contrivance" is in a matter of speaking ideal for going higher and higher in raptures of interpretation but equally for going further and further over the horizon like an airship out of Verne or the anachronistic machinations of steampunk...
If allegoresis is reading as if allegory (a speaking otherwise) is involved, we have at play a certain ventriloquism. Reading as puppetry. And I for one am prepared to follow Quilligan in her interpretations, especially of Melville's The Confidence Man, to the point where allegory arrives in the end at an invitation to reflect upon the reader's act of reading which (and here I am extrapolating) is a type of encounter with the mask. The prime question in engaging literature (allegorical or not) is which face will I as reader prepare to face the quiddity before me. Where will the search end: what quiddity will I uncover or what mask drop, which face save?
And so for day 1187