Allegoresis: A Reader I probably won’t compile, though it is tempting

Sometimes – usually when I’m procrastinating on an overdue project – I like to dream up other ideas for things to work on. Recently I’ve been thinking about the practice of allegorical interpretation – as distinct from allegorical composition, in which someone composes a story with intended latent significance – and I’ve dreamed up a list of readings that I’d think about using for a graduate seminar, or even an edited book of readings on the theme. I probably won’t have the chance to do either of those things, but I thought I’d share my hit list in case others want to make use of it. So often one reads about a topic without engaging the signal works in the history of the topic directly, so I’ve tried to think about some key representative or justly famous primary sources from antiquity to the high medieval period.


Readings in the Theory and Practice of Allegorical Interpretation from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Part I: Classical Antiquity

1. Derveni papyrus (4th c. BCE, Orphic texts with allegorical commentary, esp. col. VII and following, for this see, Richard Janko, “The Derveni Papyrus (Diagoras of Melos, Apopyrgizontes logoi?): A New Translation,” Classical Philology 96 (2001): 1-32).

2. Heraclitus, selections from Homeric Problems, ed. D. A. Russell and David Konstan, 2005 [‘the first translation into English of the most extended example of pagan allegorical criticism to survive from classical antiquity’, xxv].

3. Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, selections from the Compendium of Greek Theology. See Robert Stephen Hays, “Lucius Annaeus Cornutus’ Epidromē (Introduction to the Traditions of Greek Theology): Introduction, Translation, and Notes,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Universtiy of Texas at Austin, 1983. Esp. the translation on 56-121.

4. Ps.-Plutarch, selections from Essay on the Life and Poetry of Homer (1996 ed by J J Keaney and Robert Lamberton).

Part II: Late Antiquity

5. Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs, Robert Lamberton, trans. (Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 1983).

6. Selections from the edited and translated collection, Jan Ziolkowski and Michael C. J. Putnam,The Virgilian Tradition (YUP, 2008).

7. Macrobius, selections from Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. Cf. W H Stahl, Commentary on the ‘Dream of Scipio’ by Macrobius (Records of Western Civilization; Columbia University Press, 1990, orig. 1952 or 1955). Book I?

8. Proclus, selections from On the Republic. [5th. c.]; See Robert Lamberton, Proclus the Successor on Poetics and the Homeric Poems: Essays 5 and 6 of His Commentary on the Republic of Plato (WGRW; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012).

III. Jewish Traditions

9. Aristobulus. Cf. C. R. Holladay, Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors, volume 3: Aristobulus (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1995).

10. Philo, either Allegorical Interpretation of the Laws book 1, or The Migration of Abraham in the Loeb Classical Library translation .

11. Selections from the Midrash Rabbah on Genesis and Song of Songs (Soncino edition)

12. Saadia Gaon, selection from The Book of Beliefs and Opinions (Yale Judaica Series; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948)

13. Maimonides, Introduction to The Guide of the Perplexed; Shlomo Pines, trans., Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974).

14. Zohar (e.g., 3.202a or 3.152, etc.; either Pritzker edition or some of the selections Gershom Scholem published in his Zohar: The Book of Splendor [New York: Schocken Books, 1963])

IV. Christian Traditions

15. Paul, Gal 4, 1 Cor 10, 2 Cor 3

16. Origen, Peri Archon, book 4 (Butterworth translation)

17. Augustine, De Doctrina, book 3 (Edmund Hill’s translation in the New City Press edition)

18. Ps-Dionysius, Mystical Theology, ch. 1. Cf. J. Jones, tr., Pseudo-Dionysius: The Divine Names and Mystical Theology (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1980).

19. John Cassian, selections from the Conferences (e.g., 14).

20. Gregory the Great, Dedicatory Letter to the Moralia in Job.

21. (Ps.-)Bernardus Silvestris. Selections. See E. G. Schreiber and T. E. Maresca, trans.,Commentary on The First Six Books of Virgil’s Aeneid by Bernardus Silvestris (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1979).

22. Later Christian commentator on Scripture, possibly taken from Denys Turner, Eros and Allegory: Medieval Exegesis of the Song of Songs (Cistercian Studies 156; Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1995).

V. Muslim Traditions

23. An Early Ta’wil Commentator on the Qur’an; cf. Michael A. Sells, Early Islamic Mysticism(Classics of Western Spirituality; New York: Paulist, 1996).

24. The Book of the Prophet Muhammad’s Ascent to Heaven (Mi’râj Nâma), translated by P. Heath in Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna (Ibn Sînâ: With a Translation of the Book of the Prophet Muhammad’s Ascent to Heaven (The Middle Ages Series; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 111-43.

25. Al Ghazali, in W. H. T. Gairdner, Al-Ghazzali’s Miskat al-Anwar (The Niche of Lights)(Royal Asiatic Society Monographs 19; London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1924), 43-98.

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