Allusion
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Allusion is a
figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that intentionally deviates from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetorical effect. Figures of speech are traditionally classified into ''scheme (linguistics), schemes,'' whi ...
, in which an object or circumstance from unrelated context is referred to covertly or indirectly. It is left to the audience to make the direct connection. Where the connection is directly and explicitly stated (as opposed to indirectly implied) by the author, it is instead usually termed a
reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another object. The first object in this relation is said to ''refer to'' the second object. It is called a ''name'' ...
. In the arts, a literary allusion puts the alluded text in a new context under which it assumes new meanings and denotations. It is not possible to predetermine the nature of all the new meanings and inter-textual patterns that an allusion will generate. Literary allusion is closely related to
parody A parody, also known as a spoof, a satire, a send-up, a take-off, a lampoon, a play on (something), or a caricature, is a creative work designed to imitate, comment on, and/or mock its subject by means of satire, satiric or irony, ironic imitation. ...
and
pastiche A pastiche is a work of visual art, literature, theatre, music, or architecture that Imitation, imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. Unlike parody, pastiche pays homage to the work it imitates, rather than ...

pastiche
, which are also "text-linking"
literary device A narrative technique (known for literary fictional narratives as a literary technique, literary device, or fictional device) is any of several specific methods the creator of a narrative uses to convey what they want —in other words, a stra ...
s.Ben-Porot (1976) pp. 107–8 quotation: In a wider, more informal context, an allusion is a passing or casually short statement indicating broader meaning. It is an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication, such as "In the stock market, he met his Waterloo."


Scope of the term

In the most traditional sense, ''allusion'' is a literary term, though the word has also come to encompass indirect references to any source, including allusions in
film A film also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, picture, photoplay or (slang) flick is a work of visual art that simulates experiences and otherwise communicates ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere ...

film
or the
visual arts The visual arts are Art#Forms, genres, media, and styles, art forms such as painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics (art), ceramics, photography, video, filmmaking, design, crafts and architecture. Many artistic disciplines such as ...

visual arts
.Preminger & Brogan (1993) ''The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.'' Princeton University Press. In literature, allusions are used to link concepts that the reader already has knowledge of, with concepts discussed in the story. In the field of film criticism, a film-maker's intentionally unspoken visual reference to another film is also called an homage. It may even be sensed that real events have allusive overtones, when a previous event is inescapably recalled by a current one. "Allusion is bound up with a vital and perennial topic in literary theory, the place of authorial intention in interpretation", William Irwin observed, in asking "What is an allusion?" Without the hearer or reader's comprehending the author's intention, an allusion becomes merely a decorative device. Allusion is an economical device, a
figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that intentionally deviates from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetorical effect. Figures of speech are traditionally classified into ''scheme (linguistics), schemes,'' whi ...
that uses a relatively short space to draw upon the ready stock of ideas, cultural
meme A meme ( ) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying culture, c ...

meme
s or emotion already associated with a topic. Thus, an allusion is understandable only to those with prior knowledge of the covert reference in question, a mark of their cultural literacy.


Allusion as cultural bond

The origin of ''allusion'' is from the Latin noun ''allusionem'' "a playing with, a reference to," from ''alludere'' "to play, jest, make fun of," a compound of ''ad'' "to" + ''ludere'' "to play." Recognizing the point of allusion's condensed riddle also reinforces cultural solidarity between the maker of the allusion and the hearer: their shared familiarity with allusion bonds them. Ted Cohen finds such a "cultivation of intimacy" to be an essential element of many
jokes A joke is a display of humour in which words are used within a specific and well-defined narrative structure to make people laughter, laugh and is usually not meant to be interpreted literally. It usually takes the form of a story, often with ...
. Some aspect of the referent must be invoked and identified for the tacit association to be made; the allusion is indirect in part because "it depends on something more than mere substitution of a referent." The allusion depends as well on the author's intent; a reader may search out parallels to a figure of speech or a passage, of which the author was unaware, and offer them as unconscious allusions—coincidences that a critic might not find illuminating. Addressing such issues is an aspect of
hermeneutics Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of Biblical hermeneutics, biblical texts, wisdom literature, and Philosophy, philosophical texts. Hermeneutics is more than interpretative principles ...
. William Irwin remarks that allusion moves in only one direction: "If A alludes to B, then B does not allude to A. The Bible does not allude to Shakespeare, though Shakespeare may allude to the Bible." Irwin appends a note: "Only a divine author, outside of time, would seem capable of alluding to a later text." This is the basis for Christian readings of Old Testament prophecy, which asserts that passages are to be read as allusions to future events due to Jesus's revelation in . Allusion differs from the similar term intertextuality in that it is an intentional effort on the author's part. The success of an allusion depends in part on at least some of its audience "getting" it. Allusions may be made increasingly obscure, until at last they are understood by the author alone, who thereby retreats into a private language (e.g. "Ulalume", by
Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe (; Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary criticism, literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the ...

Edgar Allan Poe
).


Academic analysis of the concept of allusions

In discussing the richly allusive poetry of
Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (; traditional dates 15 October 7021 September 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil ( ) in English, was an ancient Rome, ancient Roman poet of the Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Augustan period. He composed three ...

Virgil
's ''
Georgics The ''Georgics'' ( ; ) is a poem by Latin poet Virgil, likely published in 29 BCE. As the name suggests (from the Greek language, Greek word , ''geōrgika'', i.e. "agricultural (things)") the subject of the poem is agriculture; but far from b ...
'', R. F. ThomasR. F. Thomas, "Virgil's ''Georgics'' and the art of reference" ''Harvard Studies in Classical Philology '' 90 (1986) pp 171–98. distinguished six categories of allusive reference, which are applicable to a wider cultural sphere. These types are: # Casual reference, "the use of language which recalls a specific antecedent, but only in a general sense" that is relatively unimportant to the new context; # Single reference, in which the hearer or reader is intended to "recall the context of the model and apply that context to the new situation"; such a specific single reference in Virgil, according to Thomas, is a means of "making connections or conveying ideas on a level of intense subtlety"; # Self-reference, where the ''locus'' is in the poet's own work; # Corrective allusion, where the imitation is clearly in opposition to the original source's intentions; # Apparent reference "which seems clearly to recall a specific model but which on closer inspection frustrates that intention"; and # Multiple reference or conflation, which refers in various ways simultaneously to several sources, fusing and transforming the cultural traditions. A type of literature has grown round explorations of the allusions in such works as
Alexander Pope Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 Old Style and New Style dates, O.S. – 30 May 1744) was an English poet, translator, and satirist of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment era who is considered one of the most prominent English poets of the earl ...

Alexander Pope
's ''
The Rape of the Lock ''The Rape of the Lock'' is a mock-heroic narrative poem written by Alexander Pope. One of the most commonly cited examples of high burlesque, it was first published anonymously in Lintot's ''Miscellaneous Poems and Translations'' (May 1712) ...
'' or 's ''
The Waste Land ''The Waste Land'' is a poem by T. S. Eliot, widely regarded as one of the most important poems of the 20th century and a central work of Modernist poetry in English, modernist poetry. Published in 1922, the 434-line poem first appeared in the ...
''.


Examples

In
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') (born ) was a Greek poet who is credited as the author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are foundational works of ancient Greek literature. Homer is considered one of the ...

Homer
, brief allusions could be made to mythic themes of generations previous to the main narrative because they were already familiar to the epic's hearers: one example is the theme of the Calydonian boarhunt. In
Hellenistic In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as sig ...

Hellenistic
Alexandria, literary culture and a fixed literary canon known to readers and hearers made a densely allusive poetry effective; the poems of
Callimachus Callimachus (; ) was an ancient Greek poet, scholar and librarian who was active in Alexandria during the 3rd century BC. A representative of Ancient Greek literature of the Hellenistic period, he wrote over 800 literary works in a wide variety ...
offer the best-known examples. Martin Luther King Jr., alluded to the
Gettysburg Address The Gettysburg Address is a Public speaking, speech that President of the United States, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered during the American Civil War at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Soldiers' National Cemetery, ...

Gettysburg Address
in starting his "
I Have a Dream "I Have a Dream" is a Public speaking, public speech that was delivered by American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr., during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. In the spee ...
" speech by saying 'Five score years ago..."; his hearers were immediately reminded of
Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln ( ; February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American lawyer, politician, and statesman who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. Lincoln led the nation throu ...

Abraham Lincoln
's "Four score and seven years ago", which opened the Gettysburg Address. King's allusion effectively called up parallels in two historic moments without overwhelming his speech with details. A
sobriquet A sobriquet ( ), or soubriquet, is a nickname, sometimes assumed, but often given by another, that is descriptive. A sobriquet is distinct from a pseudonym, as it is typically a familiar name used in place of a real name, without the need of expla ...
is an allusion. By
metonymy Metonymy () is a figure of speech in which a concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept. Etymology The words ''metonymy'' and ''metonym'' come from grc, μετωνυμία, 'a change of name' ...
one aspect of a person or other referent is selected to identify it, and it is this shared aspect that makes a sobriquet evocative: for example, "the city that never sleeps" is a sobriquet of (and therefore an allusion to) New York. An allusion may become trite and stale through unthinking overuse, devolving into a mere
cliché A cliché ( or ) is an element of an artistic work, saying, or idea that has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being weird or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was consi ...
, as is seen in some of the sections below.


15 minutes of fame

Andy Warhol Andy Warhol (; born Andrew Warhola Jr.; August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American visual artist, film director, and producer who was a leading figure in the Art movement, visual art movement known as pop art. His works explore th ...

Andy Warhol
, a 20th-century American artist most famous for his pop-art images of Campbell soup cans and of
Marilyn Monroe Marilyn Monroe (; born Norma Jeane Mortenson; 1 June 1926 4 August 1962) was an American actress. Famous for playing comedic "Blonde stereotype#Blonde bombshell, blonde bombshell" characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of ...

Marilyn Monroe
, commented on the explosion of media coverage by saying, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Today, when someone receives a great deal of media attention for something fairly trivial, they are said to be experiencing their "
15 minutes of fame Fifteen or 15 may refer to: *15 (number), the natural number following 14 and preceding 16 *one of the years 15 BC, AD 15, 1915, 2015 Music *Fifteen (band), a punk rock band Albums * 15 (Buckcherry album), ''15'' (Buckcherry album), 2005 * 15 ...
"; that is an allusion to Andy Warhol's famous remark.


Lot's Wife/Pillar of Salt

According to the Book of Genesis, God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot, the nephew of Abraham, was given time to escape with his family before the destruction. God commanded Lot and his family not to look back as they fled. Lot's wife disobeyed and looked back, and she was immediately turned into a pillar of salt as punishment for her disobedience. An allusion to Lot's wife or to a pillar of salt is usually a reference to someone who unwisely chooses to look back once they have begun on a course of action or to someone who disobeys an explicit rule or command.


Cassandra

In
Greek mythology A major branch of classical mythology, Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical co ...
,
Cassandra Cassandra or Kassandra (; Ancient Greek: Κασσάνδρα, , also , and sometimes referred to as Alexandra) in Greek mythology was a Trojan priestess dedicated to the god Apollo and fated by him to utter true prophecy, prophecies but never to ...
, the daughter of
Trojan Trojan or Trojans may refer to: * Of or from the ancient city of Troy * Trojan language, the language of the historical Trojans Arts and entertainment Music * ''Les Troyens'' ('The Trojans'), an opera by Berlioz, premiered part 1863, part 1890 ...

Trojan
king
Priam In Greek mythology, Priam (; grc-gre, Πρίαμος, ) was the legendary and last king of Troy during the Trojan War. He was the son of Laomedon of Troy, Laomedon. His many children included notable characters such as Hector, Paris (mythology) ...
, was loved by
Apollo Apollo, grc, Ἀπόλλωνος, Apóllōnos, label=genitive , ; , grc-dor, Ἀπέλλων, Apéllōn, ; grc, Ἀπείλων, Apeílōn, label=Arcadocypriot Greek Arcadocypriot, or southern Achaeans (tribe), Achaean, was an ancient ...

Apollo
, who gave her the gift of
prophecy In religion, a prophecy is a message that has been communicated to a person (typically called a ''prophet'') by a supernatural entity. Prophecies are a feature of many cultures and belief systems and usually contain divine will or divine law, la ...
. When Cassandra later angered Apollo, he altered the gift so that her prophecies, while true, would not be believed. Thus, her accurate warnings to the Trojans were disregarded, and disaster befell them. Today, a "Cassandra" refers to someone who predicts disasters or negative results, especially to someone whose predictions are disregarded.


Catch-22

This phrase comes from a novel by
Joseph Heller Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American author of novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays. His best-known work is the 1961 novel ''Catch-22'', a satire on war and bureaucracy, whose title has become a synonym for ...

Joseph Heller
. ''
Catch-22 ''Catch-22'' is a satirical war novel by American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in 1953; the novel was first published in 1961. Often cited as one of the most significant novels of the twentieth century, it uses a distinctive non-chr ...
'' is set on a U.S. Army Air Force base in
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
. "Catch-22" refers to a regulation that states an airman's request to be relieved from flight duty can only be granted if he is judged to be insane. However, anyone who does not want to fly dangerous missions is obviously sane, thus, there is no way to avoid flying the missions. Later in the book the old woman in Rome explains that Catch-22 means "They can do whatever they want to do." This refers to the theme of the novel in which the authority figures consistently abuse their powers, leaving the consequences to those under their command. In common speech, "catch-22" has come to describe any absurd or no-win situation.


T. S. Eliot

The poetry of is often described as "allusive", because of his habit of referring to names, places or images that may only make sense in the light of prior knowledge. This technique can add to the experience, but for the uninitiated can make Eliot's work seem dense and hard to decipher.


James Joyce

The most densely allusive work in modern English may be ''
Finnegans Wake ''Finnegans Wake'' is a novel by Irish literature, Irish writer James Joyce. It is well known for its experimental style and reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the Western canon. It has been called "a work of fiction whi ...
'' by
James Joyce James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist, poet, and literary critic. He contributed to the Modernism, modernist avant-garde movement and is regarded as one of the most influential and important ...
.
Joseph Campbell Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American writer. He was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College who worked in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work covers many aspects of the ...
and Henry Morton Robinson wrote '' A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake'' (1944) that unlocked some of Joyce's most obscure allusions.


References


Bibliography

* Ben-Porot, Ziva (1976) ''The Poetics of Literary Allusion'', p. 108, i
''PTL: A Journal for descriptive poetics and theory of literature 1''
* Irwin, William (2001). "What Is an Allusion?" ''The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism'', 59 (3): 287–297. * Irwin, W. T. (2002). "The Aesthetics of Allusion." ''Journal of Value Inquiry'': 36 (4). * Pasco, Allan H. ''Allusion: A Literary Graft''. 1994. Charlottesville: Rookwood Press, 2002. {{Authority control Figures of speech Literature Rhetorical techniques Narrative techniques Semantics