SAMUEL: AMERICAN ALLEGORY


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His importance lay in his ability to interpret American exceptionalism to a public that wanted to see it expressed in the language of neoclassical allegory. The gorgoneion is a very ancient symbol of power with roots deep in prehistory.


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In Greek and Roman antiquity g orgoneia were used as devices to ward off enemies. They could be found in temples and on dress, dishes, weapons, and coins throughout the Greco-Roman world. And to emphasize this, rays of sunlight emerge from behind the clouds, looking much like the stripes of the flag, to illuminate the figure of America. In the middle ground of the print, Barralet placed an equestrian statue of George Washington in front of the triumphal arch. Barralet was emphasizing a point that Washington himself had made at the end of the Revolutionary War.

The ancient Babylonian king Hammurabi r. Having created an empire through war, Hammurabi wanted to be remembered as the king who brought peace and prosperity to his people. I held the people of the lands of Sumer and Akkad safely in my lap. They prospered under my protective spirit, I maintained them in peace, with my skillful wisdom I sheltered them.

The allegorical mode

Please note, Babylon is now Iraq. Saddam Hussein was no Hammurabi. Hammurabi receives symbols of authority from Shamash, god of wisdom.

Full text issues

But it is in the dispensations of that providence which inflicts partial evil, to produce general good. In June of , as the Revolutionary War was coming to an end, Washington sent a circular letter to the state governors in which he put forth his understanding of how victory in war opened the door to a boundless future for America.

Coleridge on Allegory and Symbol - Oxford Handbooks

The Citizens of America, placed in the most enviable condition, as the sole Lords and Proprietors of a vast Tract of Continent, comprehending all the various soils and climates of the World, and abounding with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life, are now by the late satisfactory pacification, acknowledged to be possessed of absolute freedom and Independency; They are, from this period, to be considered as the Actors on a most conspicuous Theatre, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.

Most providential, Washington believed, was that the United States had been born in an age of enlightenment.

The eighteenth century had produced advances in the natural sciences and the social sciences—knowledge of history, society, and government—unprecedented in human history. The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had ameliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society.


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  • In short, America was perfectly placed to be guided by wisdom. As early as , George Washington was being venerated as a divinely inspired leader, a special favorite of the goddess of wisdom.


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    • Surrounding the four figures, in the foreground, are various symbols of knowledge and learning : a bust , a scroll labeled " geometry " , papers and columns architecture ; a globe geography , a lyre and sheet music music , and a paper with escutcheons on it history and heraldry. In the background, former slaves are dancing and celebrating around a liberty pole ; behind them are ships on a body of water.

      Allegory and American Romanticism

      The work is the earliest known American painting promoting Abolitionism in the United States. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. References [ edit ] Nelson, Charmaine. Volume 34, Number 2: p. Volume 2:

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