Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Proclus and Allegory

"The alternative approaches to Homer, literal and "allegorical" interpretation, based respectively on views of the literary artifact as a simple system of meaning and as a polysemous structure, are at least as old as Plato. Nowhere before Proclus, though, do we see the two interact in such a way that conclusions may be drawn about their relative importance and uses. If we were to judge by the relative levels of attention to the two poems in the Homeric Allegories of Heraclitus, we would have to conclude that the efforts of the physical and moral allegorists were concentrated on the Iliad, but what we are seeing there is probably no more than a relection of the traditional assessment of the Iliad as the superior poem. Proclus seems to give an indication (though by no means a proof) that our modern understanding of the differences between the two poems was anticipated in late antiquity by a general tendency to read the Iliad _______ and the Odyssey as a polysemous structure--a tendency against which Proclus reacts on both counts in his defense of Homer, though he does so in his characteristically gentle way. There is, further, the implication that, given the choice between an acceptable interpretation ______ and an unnecessary allegory, Proclus will choose the former: looking through the screen of the fictive surface is required only when the surface itself does not yield a satisfactory meaning."
Homer the Theologian, p224
(blanks are greek text see google books preview)