Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms

Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms

Barbara Kiefer Lewalski
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 391
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  • Book Info
    Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive study interprets Paradise Lost as a rhetoric of literary forms, by attending to the broad spectrum of literary genres, modes, and exemplary works Milton incorporates within that poem.

    Originally published in 1985.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5395-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. ONE Paradise Lost as Encyclopedic Epic: The Uses of Literary Forms
    (pp. 3-24)

    Paradise Lostis preeminently a poem about knowing and choosing—for the Miltonic Bard, for his characters, for the reader. I intend to argue that the ground for many of these choices is Milton’s own choice and rhetorical use of a panoply of literary forms, with their accumulated freight of shared cultural significances.

    Readers have long recognized thatParadise Lostis an epic whose closest structural affinities are to Virgil’sAeneid,and that it undertakes to redefine classical heroism in Christian terms.¹ We now recognize as well the influence of epic traditions and the presence of epic features other than...

  6. TWO Inspiration and Literary Art: The Prophet-Poets of Paradise Lost
    (pp. 25-54)

    The fact that Milton inParadise Lostgives constant attention to the choice of literary forms and the uses of literary art may seem incongruous with the fact that he also presents himself in that poem as a prophet-poet, an inspired bard. There is, however, no contradiction. Indeed, the relationship between conscious art and divine inspiration is a major theme of the Bard’s personal proems to Books One, Three, Seven, and Nine, and the issue is also explored through the roles he creates for the subordinate narrators, the angels Raphael and Michael. All three narrators are poet-prophets who must seek...

  7. THREE “Argument Heroic Deem’d”: The Genres of the Satanic Heroic Mode
    (pp. 55-78)

    That Milton portrays Satan largely in terms of the heroic mode is a commonplace of criticism, as is the idea that the Satanic heroic is a debased version of the classical heroic ethos.¹ Readers readily perceive that those parts ofParadise Lostconcerned with Satan’s activities are replete with epic matter and motivations, epic genre conventions, and constant allusions to specific passages in famous heroic poems, recalling thereby the glorious deeds, the heroic virtues, and the characteristic emotion—wonder—which Renaissance critics identified with these genres and these poems.² Even so, we need to observe more precisely the very comprehensive...

  8. FOUR “Semblance of Worth, not Substance”: The Discursive and Lyric Genres of the Damned
    (pp. 79-109)

    Many aspects of Satan and his infernal society are revealed through the genres of speech and song associated with them: epic and dialogic exchanges, tragic soliloquies, rhetorical speeches, a very few lyrics. Whereas the various epic and dramatic genres are incorported inParadise Lostthrough their paradigms and topoi, these smaller kinds are usually embedded in the narrative, set off by specific genre conventions and indicators of commencement and closure.

    Certain genres of discourse and lyric were common in epic, given Homeric precedent and the perception of Homer as source of all the arts and all the literary forms.¹ Among...

  9. FIVE “Other Excellence”: Generic Multiplicity and Milton’s Literary God
    (pp. 110-139)

    It is a commonplace of criticism that the most difficult problem Milton faced inParadise Lostinvolved the portrayal of God. Milton indeed undertook to “justify the ways of God to men,” but the problem for many readers—from his day to ours—has been to justify Milton’s ways with God. Early to late, readers have questioned the theological appropriateness and literary success of Milton’s anthropomorphic presentation of God as epic character. For Addison he is simply dull, a school divine delivering long sermons; for Shelley and Empson a cruel torturer and tyrant; for A.J.A. Waldock a divine egotist; for...

  10. SIX “Our Happy State”: Literary Forms for Angelic Wholeness
    (pp. 140-172)

    Milton portrays angelic society inParadise Lostthrough a mix of literary modes—pastoral, georgic, and heroic. He also associates with these modes several kinds of discourse and lyric, which render other aspects of the heavenly community. The angels’ discourse is most often prophetic dialogue, though they also use invective, rebuke, debate, and other speech genres as specific situations require. And they are highly accomplished lyric poets, singing hymns of several kinds and enacting elaborate ceremonies to celebrate all the great events of the poem—the Dialogue in Heaven, the Son’s victory over Satan in the Batde in Heaven, the...

  11. SEVEN “A Happy Rural Seat of Various View”: Pastoral Idyl and the Genres of Edenic Innocence
    (pp. 173-195)

    Pastoral is the dominant mode for the portrayal of Eden and the life of prelapsarian Adam and Eve.¹ Though our first parents are gardeners rather than shepherds or herdsmen, their life in Eden exhibits the essential qualities of Golden Age or Arcadian pastoral: freedom and leisure; the perfect harmony of man and nature; an abundance of natural goods satisfying all human needs; a range of activities consisting primarily of love, song, and pleasant conversation; and pastoralotium—a state of tranquillity and contentment which, as Thomas Rosenmeyer notes, also includes “liveliness and play.”²

    Edenic pastoral has little relation to the...

  12. EIGHT “Our Pleasant Labor”: Georgic and Comedic Modes and Genres in Eden
    (pp. 196-219)

    With the coming of morning in Eden, at the beginning of Book Five, we are no longer in the realm of pastoral idyl. The change is highlighted but not caused by Eve’s disturbing, Satan-inspired dream: according to the natural rhythm of life in Eden, the peace and rest of evening give way to the activities and responsibilities of the day. As we have seen, in Book Four the idyllic and cyclic qualities of pastoral are emphasized; in Books Five to Eight pastoral gives way to the georgic and the comedic modes, which together inform the several genres we now encounter....

  13. NINE “I Now Must Change Those Notes to Tragic”: The Fall and the Tragic Genres
    (pp. 220-253)

    In his proem to Book Nine the Miltonic Bard announces quite explicitly his shift in mode—from the pastoral scene of “rural repast” and the comedic symposium of “venial discourse” to the tragic matter of revolt and disobedience, anger and judgment, misery and death. As we have seen, this proem is a verse epistle on poetics,¹ answering in advance Addison’s objection that a tragic plot in which the protagonist falls “from some eminent Pitch of honour and prosperity into Misery” is “not so proper for an Heroick Poem.”² Citing Homeric and Virgilian precedent for a tragic argument or subplot in...

  14. TEN “Not Less but More Heroic”: Prophecy and the Transformation of Literary Forms
    (pp. 254-280)

    With God’s directive to Michael to “reveal / ToAdamwhat shall come in future days, / As I shall thee enlighten, intermix / My Cov’nant in the woman’s seed renew’d” (11.113-16), the Miltonic Bard changes his notes to prophetic, the mode through which fallen but redeemed humankind can come to terms with the woe of the fallen world. This prophetic mode informs and transforms the several literary genres and modes through which the matter of Books Eleven and Twelve is rendered.¹ Illumined by prophecy, Adam and Eve and their progeny are challenged to redefine and fuse the tragic, georgic,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 281-360)
  16. Index
    (pp. 361-378)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 379-379)