For the past decades, public discourse on veils in Western societies has mainly focused on the Islamic veil. In the Western history of thought, however, veils have frequently been used as symbols in epistemological contexts, too, both in literary and in theoretical primary texts. Astonishingly, an overwhelming majority of secondary sources concerned with veils as epistemological symbols in Western culture continue to talk about “the veil” — as if there were only one. Indeed, veils have usually been used in similar epistemological contexts, albeit expressing completely different worldviews depending on the degree of transparency or opacity, the material structure, and — most important — the veils’ position in relation to the subject. Consequently, “the veil” as such does not exist; there is rather a plurality of different types of veils, for example, the veil of Isis, the metaphysical veil, the discursive veil, the veil of perception, the psychological veil, or the veil between subjects, all of which contribute to an all-encompassing veil in the sense of a “world metaphor.” Different literary texts from the corresponding periods in literary history use veils as epistemological metaphors, too, and thereby reflect the conception of reality dominant in the respective epoch.
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Research Article| May 01 2012
Christian Knirsch; World Metaphor, Metametaphor: Veils in Literature, Literature as Veil. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2012; 32 (1): 169–182. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-1545444
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