Allegory in America: From Puritanism to Postmodernism by Deborah L. Madsen (auth.)

By Deborah L. Madsen (auth.)

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John Cotton was preaching the typological parallel in a sermon delivered at Salem in June 1636. The actions of the emigrants are seen to be divinely guided like those of God's previously chosen people; but the comparison is made closer by the single, continuous providential history that these peoples share. As the events recorded in the Old Testament were foreshadowings of Christ's life, so the New World history of colonial Puritans was seen to fulfil the promise shadowed forth by Christ. Events are united by God's redemptive purpose and by the covenant that seals this purpose.

It is significant that representatives of the Church who are sought out by Will in the course of his quest are unable to provide this insight. Part of Langland's scathing attack on abuses of Church power and the corruption of the clergy is articulated by the device of representing characters such as Lady Holy Church and Clergy as personifications (associated so closely with pagan forms 30 Allegory in America of interpretation) and not as typologically represented characters the latter form of representation being reserved for Piers the Plowman alone.

29 The spiritual values that require no physical representation assume Allegory in the Old World 35 a value that is identical to itself, a meaning that is transparent and unequivocal. And the nature of these meanings is prescribed by the reformers' zeal. That the legislative function reserved for the Bible, in patristic allegory, and the exegete inspired by the Holy Spirit, in Puritan allegory, should be appropriated for the subjective judgements laid down by enthusiastic reformers indicates that the sovereignty of the subjective has reached its peak.

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