الرمز والأمثولة في التعبير الشعبي / Symbol and Allegory in Popular Expression


Nabila Ibrahim



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ابراهيم, نبيلة; Ibrahim, Nabila

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The symbolic and the allegorical are the pillars of popular expression. Whereas the symbolic permeates both verbal and non-verbal worlds of popular expression, the allegorical is particularly connected to a certain kind of narrative, namely the allegory. Both symbol and allegory are forms of expression which have been filtered, over time, through the literary heritage of ancient civilizations. That explains why the signification of certain symbols and allegories, prevalent in our popular literature today, can only be explained by tracing them to ancient and medieval literatures and rituals. The symbolic mode is coded knowledge which allows humans to understand the truths and secrets of the universe. Originally, it is always a material element which the human being's mind transforms from immediate use to universal signification. It thereby becomes part of the human accumulative repertoire of knowledge, functional on both the individual and collective levels. Sometimes, however, the intensity of thoughts and emotions is such that it cannot be expressed through a natural or material element. In such cases, the human mind invents, through imagination, forms which are eventually transformed into symbols with permanent signification for the collectivity. This means that symbols are not imprinted in the collective consciousness until they are accepted, used and practiced by the group. This article presents examples of ancient symbols which are employed in popular expression today in an attempt to relate them to mythic thought, on the one hand and to foreground their function in collective life both on the universal and social levels, on the other. In contrast, allegory reveals other layers of human creativity. Basically, it is an imaginary story which seeks to communicate a meaning concealed in its form. This means that allegory has two levels of signification: one apparent and the other hidden. And yet it is characterized by a clarity, which allows the audience to grasp its full signification as soon as they complete hearing or reading it. Such clarity is achieved through an economy of plot and a highly communicative language. It is because of such characteristics that the allegory has acceeded to all levels of human experience: intellectual, metaphysical, political and ethical. This article gives examples of allegorical narratives collected by the author in Egypt, revealing their dynamic functions within popular life both as an expression of the collectivity and as critical tools that expose human problems.]

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