Friday, January 1, 2010
The Fourfold Method
Saint Augustine described four levels of interpretation for exegesis of Holy Scripture in his De Genesi ad Litteram. The levels begin with the Literal or Narrative meaning, and proceed through the Allegorical or Parallel meaning, the Tropological or Moral meaning and the Anagogical or Mystical meaning. These levels of interpretation represent a way of understanding the relationship between formal structure and meaning. Dante used the fourfold method to explain his Divine Comedy in a famous letter to Can Grande opening up this method of interpretation to the realm, not only of Scripture, but also secular literature. As we progress in our ability to read and listen to the great books, from small children following the literal level of a story, an increasing understanding of the anagogical level prepares a child for their role as a thoughtful and liberally educated citizen.