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Looking Into Providences

Looking Into Providences: Designs and Trials inParadise Lost

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Looking Into Providences
    Book Description:

    The work explores the ways in which providentialism infiltrates various kinds of discourse, ranging from military to medical, and from political to philosophical.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9606-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Texts and Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Seventeenth-century England still was a pervasively religious society, which meant that manifestations of God’s will, in events both large and small, were matters of absorbing interest; and in his poetic fascination with the workings of providence, John Milton was, as we shall see in the following chapter, a man of his age.¹ The Nativity Ode encompasses the sweep of history, from Creation (st. 12–13) to Last Judgment (st. 17), even presenting the Peace of Augustus (st. 3) as an act of extraordinary providence preparatory to the greatest such historical event, the Incarnation. Sonnet 7, ‘How soon hath Time,’ takes...

  7. Chapter One Providence and Providences
    (pp. 11-41)

    In chiding his fellow historians for neglecting the engine primarily driving ‘seventeenth-century political argument and decision-making,’ Blair Worden felt he had to refute the modern assumption that cynicism underlay the ubiquitous explanations of and appeals to providence. Literary scholars have been equally as neglectful, if for a different reason; for many of them, it appears that evocations of providence do seem ‘mere literary decoration,’ something too banal to require further attention. To the contrary, Alexandra Walsham maintains that, far from being a marginal feature of the culture, providentialism had ‘nearly universal’ acceptance: ‘It was a set of ideological spectacles through...

  8. Chapter Two Memory and the Art of Composition
    (pp. 42-72)

    In modern times there have been two great feats, equally remarkable and remarkably different, of memorial composition by blind geniuses:Paradise LostandFinnegans Wake. Although James Joyce may well have had memory training in his Jesuit schooldays, his method, surely, was the more arbitrary. Samuel Beckett recounted one experience of taking dictation from Joyce:

    There was a knock at the door which Beckett didn’t hear. Joyce said, ‘Come in,’ and Beckett wrote it down. Afterwards he read back what he had written and Joyce said, ‘What’s that “Come in”?’ ‘Yes, you said that,’ said Beckett. Joyce thought for a...

  9. Chapter Three Satan’s Machiavellian Enterprise: Force and Fraud
    (pp. 73-101)

    Through the first ten books of the epic, chronologically from the rebellion in Heaven until his return to Hell after successfully tempting Eve, Satan motivates the action. Himself a paradigm of how not to respond to trial, he wilfully engages in a course of action that he acknowledges to be wrong; stubbornly persists in drawing mistaken lessons from each defeat; and unwittingly becomes an instrument of providence, ‘a provoking object’ (CPW2:527) to other characters in their own trials. This chapter considers Satan’s conduct in continued pursuit of the war by force or fraud (PL1:645–9, 2:40–1; ‘force...

  10. Chapter Four Providence Working: The Son and the Adversary
    (pp. 102-127)

    In 1633 Charles I made a long-deferred journey north for his coronation as king of Scotland, arriving at Edinburgh 15 June to a splendid civic pageant with triumphal arches.² Among the royal entourage was the court medalist, the Frenchman Nicholas Briot, who had now become Chief Graver at the mint. Briot created a coronation medal of Charles crowned, wearing ermine robes with both the Garter and the Thistle, and a few pieces were struck in Scottish gold. Returning to London in late July, the king was greeted by cheering crowds, prompting another medal (fig. 4). The obverse depicts Charles on...

  11. Chapter Five Possessing Eve: Tobias and Sarah in Eden
    (pp. 128-150)

    Reflecting on the Book of Tobit, Søren Kierkegaard wrote: ‘If a poet read this story and were to use it, I wager a hundred to one that he would make everything center on the young Tobias. The heroic courage to be willing to risk his life in such obvious danger . . . would be the subject. I venture to propose another . . . Sarah is the heroic character.’³ His expectation is illustrated effectively by a sixteenth-century woodcut. Reversing the visual convention in which the angel leads Tobias, the artist’s design has a resolute (if diminutive) Tobias, fish in...

  12. Chapter Six Murder One: Blood, Soul, and Mortalism
    (pp. 151-168)

    In the Book of Tobit after Tobias expels Asmodeus with the fishy fume, the demon flees to Egypt where he is bound by Raphael in a type of the binding of ‘the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan’ (Rev. 20: 2). From the omniscient view of God the Father this is all one, but not so in human time. The human poet, lamenting the absence of the ‘warning voice, which he who saw / Th’Apocalypse,heard cry in Heav’n aloud’ (PL4: 1–2; Rev. 12: 10–12), fills that void withhisRaphael, still...

  13. Chapter Seven Providential Design: The Death and Conversion of Adam
    (pp. 169-203)

    In the final books ofParadise LostMilton’s complex and subtle design of interrelated visions and ages enables him to blazon the grand providential design of Christian history, while simultaneously showing how the first Adam comes to model himself on the second. In the extraordinary providence granted to Adam, like no other mortal, he experiences the future before moving back in time to apply that knowledge to his own future. Joseph Addison, who was responsive to so many of the poem’s riches, has been abused for his censure of Milton’s strategy here: ‘To give my Opinion freely, I think that...

  14. Afterword
    (pp. 204-206)

    In the preceding chapters I have attempted to ‘examine the subject more deeply,’ thereby shedding some light on the manifold ‘methods’ of providence that inform Milton’s poem. Doubtless there are poetic simulations and evocations of providence that I have not discussed, and not everything I have argued will be equally convincing to readers. Milton scholars and critics all are Protestants, fiercely guarding their individual right to pore over the sacred text and decide each for him or herself what it means. This is as it should be, in accordance with the universal free will asserted by the poem, for to...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 207-268)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-300)
  17. Index
    (pp. 301-310)