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Thinking Allegory Otherwise$
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Brenda Machosky

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804763806

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804763806.001.0001

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Eliding Absence and Regaining Presence

Eliding Absence and Regaining Presence

The Materialist Allegory of Good and Evil in Bacon's Fables and Milton's Epic

(p.208) Nine Eliding Absence and Regaining Presence
Thinking Allegory Otherwise

Catherine Gimelli Martin

Stanford University Press

This chapter examines conventional views of Renaissance allegory, focusing on the materiality of allegorical figures in John Milton and Francis Bacon. Modern theorists such as Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault have shown how the status of knowledge changed radically in the seventeenth century. The chapter explores the changes in the allegorical mode as expressions of this epistemological shift and looks at the implications for particular allegorical figures in Milton's Paradise Lost as well as their ideological originals in Bacon's Advancement of Learning. It argues that allegorical significance is contingent not only on an absent meaning, but also on a material presence. The chapter also offers a reading of Bacon's two fables in The Wisdom of the Ancients, namely, “Cupid, or the Atom” and “Coelum, or the Origin of Things,” both of which appear to have influenced Milton's rejection of Augustine's ex nihilo creation theory.

Keywords:   Renaissance, allegory, materiality, allegorical figures, John Milton, Francis Bacon, Paradise Lost, fables, Advancement of Learning, The Wisdom of the Ancients

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