Every reader of literature must have noticed that writers often quote the works of others. In most readers’ minds, however, quotations and references, the two basic types of allusion, are usually lumped together with such things as book illustrations, chapter titles, and ‘arguments’ which head chapters or cantos, all of which are ignored too easily, or dismissed as virtually redundant elements of a literary text. Some critics who have written on allusion have helped to perpetuate misconceptions which tend to place the subject in the curio category. For example, E. E. Kellett wrote as if spotting the allusions in literature were a game designed for the educated gentleman, as quoting the Classics was in the Houses of Parliament at one time. For him the best allusions are the ‘natural overflow of a rich and well-stored mind’, and the best reader can respond to ‘veiled quotations’ which give him a ‘slight titillation of the memory’.l Although classical scholars have long recognised that allusion is a crucial indicator of the relationship between a given work and a literary tradition, the aspects of allusion on which students of English literature focused attention in the past tended to be merely curious or titillating.


Clay Dust Funeral Pyre Hunt Burial 


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  1. 1.
    E. E. Kellett, Literary Quotation and Allusion(Cambridge, 1933 ), pp. 28, 11.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Herman Meyer, The Poetics of Quotation in the European Novel(1961), translated by Theodore and Yetta Ziolkowski(Princeton, 1968), p. 3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Harold Bloom, A Map of Misreading(New York, 1975), p. 125. Compare The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry(New York and London, 1973), Kabbalah and Criticism(New York, 1975), and Poetry and Repression: Revisionism from Blake to Stevens(New Haven and London, 1976 ).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ziva Ben-Porat, ‘The Poetics of Literary Allusion’, PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory in Literature,1(1976), 105–28.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    ‘Plato; or, the Philosopher’, Representative Men(1850), in The Complete Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, edited by G. T. Bettany, Minerva Library(London, 1898 ), p. 170.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For dictionary definitions of allusion which include the meaning of a direct reference see the Universal Dictionary of the English Language, edited by Henry Cecil Wyld(London, 1931), p. 27, and the Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, edited by R. W. Birchfield, 3 vols(Oxford, 1972—), I,66.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Techniques are being developed by A. Q. Morton, and colleagues in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Edinburgh, whereby authors can be identified by their use of recurring collocations. For a discussion of the use of computers and concordances, see D. R. Tallentire, ‘Towards an archive of lexical norms. A proposal’, in The Computer and Literary Studies, edited by A. J. Aitken, R. W. Bailey, and N. Hamilton-Smith(Edinburgh, 1973), pp. 39–60.Google Scholar
  8. 7b.
    See also S. Michaelson and A. Q. Morton, ‘Positional stylometry’, in The Computer and Literary Studies, pp. 69–83.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    See W. K. Wimsatt, Junior, The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry(1954; reprinted, London, 1970), pp. 11–12.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    W. K. Wimsatt, Junior, ‘Genesis: A Fallacy Revisited’, in The Disciplines of Criticism: Essays in Literary Theory, Interpretation, and History, edited by Peter Demetz, Thomas Greene, and Lowry Nelson, Junior(New Haven and London, 1968), pp. 193–225(pp. 224–5 ).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Wimsatt, The Verbal Icon, p. 10.Google Scholar

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© Michael D. Wheeler 1979

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