allegory

On what basis can or should we treat a text a canonical? Discuss with reference to two texts

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The treatment of a text considered canonical can take so many individual forms where it can be appraised as life-enhancing. It is a text that reaches thoughts that the reader could never imagine. It should have a value that makes it human for our understanding although always easily accessible to a modern reader. For a contemporary reader, Dante’s ‘The Inferno and Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ are two books of immense structure and plot that take the reader on a journey into another world. They rank as canonical and can be treated that way.

A canonical story must have structure, contrasts and literary devices that help to develop and inform the text’s major themes and motifs. One of Dante’s major motifs was political arguments. He lived through a political nightmare that was Italy. The reader sees how these issues Dante uses in his epic poem to condemn political figures by scattering them through the circles of hell. He gives them their just retribution. The poem speaks for him. Dante takes the subject matter of these events and put them before they happened. He extrudes a powerful message in his language, his personnel political belief that church and state should exist as separate powers on earth is a courageous task. For good measure, he also throws in ancient literary figures as such referring to classical writers as Homer, Ovid, and Virgil. Dante’s poem is an overarching allegory; it explores its themes using dozens, even hundreds of symbols, with the most important factor being the punishment of sinners.  The Inferno as a canonical epic refers to the quality of the poem, which creates and has in some way an exploring or celebrating something more substantial than the particular characters and places it describes. We find Dante’s fundamental idea of creating an imaginative correspondence between a soul’s sin on earth and the punishment it receives on earth. Dante’s complexity has created a universe.

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