Beyond Literary Landscapse—Allegory

Literary Devices

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


While each week, this column serves as an introduction to a certain genre, a reminder of some of the genre’s classics, and as an inspiration for further reading, this week’s offering is a bit different.

In particular, this week’s offering begins a series that dives deeper into the text itself, focusing instead on literary devices.  For the first instalment if this series, we focus on allegory.

Allegory can be defined as “a literary device used to express large, complex ideas in an approachable manner.”  In particular, this literary technique “allows writers to create some distance between themselves and the issues they are discussing, especially when those issues are strong critiques of political or societal realities.”

These types of works can be divided into four main categories, namely classical, Biblical, medieval, and modern.

Authors of well-known Allegories include Herman Melville, Franz Kafka, Richard Adams, George Orwell, Aesop, and Dante Alighieri.


Examples of well-known Allegories include Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and 1984 by George Orwell.

Other examples include Aesop’s Fables, Watership Down by Richard Adams, and The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.

Students who enjoy Allegories may also enjoy Parables, Legends, as well as Children’s Literature, Anthropomorphism, and Speculative Fiction, covered in previous columns.


These works take place in various locations, including the United States, various oceans, as well as fantastical and religious settings, such as Hell and Purgatory.


Many of these works take place throughout history from ancient days to modern times.


These texts may be of interest for readers who would like to learn about social critiques, political and social themes, controversial topics, as well as those who would like to revisit old favourites and discover new works.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Allegory are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic, or trying to write their own Allegory, may enroll in ENGL 482: Advanced Fiction Writing, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “provides an option to work on separate short stories or linked stories, or develop a longer narrative, whether a novel, novella, or novel-in-stories.”  (Note: This course requires students to have completed ENGL 381: Creative Writing in Prose and obtain the permission of the professor.)  Happy reading!