Laura Miller wrote for “Slate” in 2016 that “there is no literary form less accidental than allegory.”, going on to say that “About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists.”. Parapraxis, while by definition accidental, may draw on the allegorical heritage of the individual’s unconscious. Only President Trump’s analyst would venture an opinion on what led him to refer to Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple sitting at his right hand the other day, as Tim Apple, though the US President may dimly recall being lampooned as Johnny Rotten Appleseed.
The headline above is borrowed from Carly Page’s 2017 piece for “the Inquirer”, based on a report in The Telegraph “that Apple is renting a 22,500 square foot office in St Albans, just a few miles from Imagination’s headquarters in the Hertfordshire village of Kings Langley.”. Imagination produces graphic chips and other cutting-edge technology for mobile phones, computer games and artificial intelligence. Anne Main, MP for St Albans, had a meeting last April with the recently appointed CEO, Dr Leo Li, shortly after the corporation’s acquisition by Canyon Bridge, an American private equity firm, for just under a billion dollars.
It’s hard for me not to hear the Inquirer headline as allegorical, for I have gathered with others in the Chapter Room of the Deanery of St Albans’ Cathedral for a study day with psychotherapist Dr Mark Vernon on Imagination and Spiritual Perception. (I last posted from this city in November, on the subject of the seed merchant, Samuel Ryder.)
Part of Dr Vernon’s thesis is that we stand in need today of recovering the imagination. To illustrate the nature of the personal effort to develop and connect, he quotes Donald Winnicott in “Transitional Objects”:
“No human being is free from the strain of relating inner and outer reality, and that relief from this strain is provided by an intermediate area of experience which is not challenged (arts, religion, etc). This intermediate area is in direct continuity with the play area of the child who is “lost” in play.”.
A half hour drive due northwards from St Albans into the Chilterns will bring you to Bunyan’s Dell (where you can spend three minutes right now, courtesy of Dominick Tyler’s “Landreader Project”). The wooded hollow provided John Bunyan with a natural amphitheatre where it was, writes Reginald Hine, “under the trees and under the stars, that he preached to his “gathered church” which numbered sometimes over a thousand souls.”.
Laura Miller notes that “The most famous allegory ever written, John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, was published in 1678, making it a holdover; allegory saw its artistic heyday in the Middle Ages.”.
She tells us that C S Lewis “wrote the definitive treatise on the form in 1936: “The Allegory of Love: A Study in Mediaeval Tradition”…..Here’s how he described the allegories of Martianus Capella, an influential writer of the early fifth century:
“The philosophies of others, the religions of others – back even to the twilight of pre-Republican Rome – have all gone into the curiosity shop of his mind. It is not his business to believe or disbelieve them; the wicked old pedant knows a trick worth two of that. He piles them up all around him until there is hardly room for him to sit among them in the middle darkness of the shop; and there he gloats and catalogues, but never dusts them, for even their dust is precious in his eyes.”.”.