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Difference Relates: Allegory, Ideology, and the Anthropocene

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Fredric Jameson's recent book, Allegory and Ideology, argues that allegory has become a 'social symptom', an attempt during moments of historical crisis to represent reality even as that reality, rife with contradictory levels, eludes representation. Mobilising the fourfold medieval system of allegory he first introduced in The Political Unconscious, Jameson traces a formal history of attempts to come to terms with the 'multiplicities' and incommensurable levels that emerge within modernity and postmodernity. This article identifies the complexities of Jameson's understanding of allegory and draws on the brief moments when Jameson references the Anthropocene to argue for an allegorical reading of our contemporary environmental crisis that would allow us to see the problem the Anthropocene names as truly contradictory: at one and the same time, the world we inhabit appears to us as a world of our own making and as a world that has become truly alien to us.
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