Lecture 5-Foster Birds and Symbols

And Jungian Archetypes
flight is freedom.
Images of birds, feathers,
and flying, all of which,
while not referring to
literal flight, evoke
thoughts of metaphorical
flight, of escape.
Indeed, often in literature
the freeing of the spirit is
seen in terms of flight.
Similarly, we speak of the
soul as taking wing.
The bird is an archetypal
symbol of elevation, of the
aspiration for rising to the
absolute dimension of the
sky, a constant and
universal metaphor for
the soul. In most archaic
mythologies, migratory
birds are incarnations of
the soul of the dead
person who departs for
the afterworld.
Birds have been considered
“messengers of gods and all the
manifestations of the spirits’
power assumed their wings.”
Birds, wings and flight have all
symbolized superior states of
being. The connection between
birds and the sky made the
former be associated with
angels and be attributed the
angelic or solar language,
which is nothing but poetry, a
rhythmic language, meant to
facilitate immersion into higher
mental states. (Luc Benoist)
The bird performs an
initiating rite of
passage, one of
breaking through the
space between the two
The bird or the birds
around the tree of life
create an opening to
the Garden of Eden; the
connection with the
afterworld allows the
bird to foretell death.
On the other hand,
“birds symbolize
thoughts and intuitions
– between people and
the soul there has
always been a symbolic
connection” (Aniela
All characters who are as famous for their shape as for their
behavior. Their shapes tell us something, and probably very
different somethings, about them or other people in the
Deformities project, hide, personal history, overcome Are
deformities and scars therefore always significant? Perhaps
not. Perhaps sometimes a scar is simply a scar, a short leg or
a hunchback merely that. But more often than not physical
markings by their very nature call attention to themselves
and signify some psychological or thematic point the writer
wants to make. After all, it’s easier to introduce characters
without imperfections. You give a guy a limp in Chapter 2,
he can’t go sprinting after the train in Chapter 24. So if a
writer brings up a physical problem or handicap or
deficiency, he probably means something by it.
Here’s the problem with symbols: people
expect them to mean something. Not just any
something, but one something in particular.
Exactly. Maximum. It doesn’t work like that.
In general a symbol can’t be reduced to
standing for only one thing.
If it can, it’s not symbolism, it’s allegory.
Allegories have one mission to accomplish –
convey a certain message,
George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) is popular
among many readers precisely because it’s
relatively easy to figure out what it all means.
Orwell is desperate for us to get the point, not a
point. Revolutions inevitably fail, he tells us,
because those who come to power are
corrupted by it and reject the values and
principles they initially embraced.
Symbols, though,
generally don’t work
so neatly.
The more you exercise the symbolic imagination, the
better and quicker it works. We tend to give writers
all the credit, but reading is also an event of the
imagination; our creativity, our inventiveness,
encounters that of the writer, and in that meeting we
puzzle out what she means, what we understand her
to mean, what uses we can put her writing to.
Imagination isn’t fantasy. That is to say, we can’t
simply invent meaning without the writer, or if we
can, we ought not to hold her to it. Rather, a reader’s
imagination is the act of one creative intelligence
engaging another.
So engage that other creative intelligence. Listen to
your instincts. Pay attention to what you feel about
the text. It probably means something.