The Dreamer Gazing

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Using examples like John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim Progress and Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Laura Miller analyzes our modern concept of what an “allegory” is, in comparison to how the word has historically been used to describe literature, and how it originated:

Allegorical reading requires sustaining both image and meaning in the reader’s mind, as equally valued components of the work. “It is not enough,” Lewis writes, “to see that the dreamer gazing into the fountain signifies the lover first looking into the lady’s eyes. We must feel that the scene by the fountain is an imaginative likeness of the lover’s experience.” We must be able to see the sparkling water and the shining eyes at the same time and recognize them to be facets of a singular, layered understanding that includes the recognition of other, abstract qualities as well, such as the purity of her spirit.


Olivia Wetzel is a student taking time off to live and work in San Francisco. If she could be any animal, she’d be a penguin. She’s never eaten pepperoni before, and one of her feet is a whole size bigger than the other. More from this author →