Barbarous Dissonance and Images of Voice in Milton's Epics

Barbarous Dissonance and Images of Voice in Milton's Epics

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Barbarous Dissonance and Images of Voice in Milton's Epics
    Book Description:

    Sauer investigates the texts' discursive practices and the politics of their orchestration of voice exploring the ways in which Milton's multivocal poems interrogated dominant structures of authority in the seventeenth century and constructed in their place a community of voices characterized by dissonances. She incorporates different critical responses to Milton's texts into her argument as a way of contextualizing her own historically engaged approach.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6614-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    This book examines the relative status and authority of the multiple narrative voices inParadise LostandParadise Regainedwithin interrelated socio-political, linguistic, and narratological contexts. Both epics accommodate a variety of interpretive voices, episodes, and dramatic and discursive exchanges that resist the monological containment of the poems’ dominant narratives. Through the inclusion of the multiple, even “unauthorized” voices and creation narratives, the poems are brought into a constructive tension with the Genesis story and its received biblical and literary traditions, as well as with accounts of England’s own tragic history. In presenting their individual creation stories, the narrators of both texts...

  5. 1 The Voices and Politics of Nimrod
    (pp. 14-34)

    The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 led again to the suppression of public opinion, debate, and participation in political conversations. Disempowered and disillusioned by the turn of events, the remaining republicans sought alternatives to direct political involvement. A victim of the royalists’ return, Milton chose to compose an epic for the nation in which he recounted England’s tragic history and also proposed the establishment of a commonwealth to replace the “Empire tyrannous” (12.32) constructed by the monarchy.

    InParadise LostMilton invites a political reading of the story of Babel by including the unnamed Nimrod in the account. Francis...

  6. 2 Critical Interventions
    (pp. 35-61)

    Religious crises, political upheaval and decentralization, economic changes, social and scientific discoveries, and print-capitalism contributed to the development of a national consciousness and the formation of a social dynamic based on boundary-oriented and horizontal communities in Western Europe during the Renaissance.¹ The restructuring of the centripetally and hierarchically organized state accompanying the development of the new imagined community challenged the reign of the dominant language that provided “privileged access to onto logical truth” (Anderson 40). Bakhtin claims that the changes in European civilization at this time resulted in Europe’s emergence from a “socially and culturally deaf semi-patriarchal society” into one...

  7. 3 “I now must change Those notes to Tragic”: The Sad Task of Raphael, Satan, and the Poet-Narrator
    (pp. 62-86)

    The act of narrating the Genesis story is constantly frustrated; even the angelic historian finds the task daunting:“Immediate are the Acts of God, more swift / Than time or motion, but to human ears / Cannot without process of speech be told” (7.176—8). As the subject of a critical and self-conscious text, the original account of earth’s creation is fragmented;¹ and because the account competes with creation stories presented by the different characters in the poem, it is also decentred. The official historical and epic narratives are constantly intercepted by the multiple narrators inParadise Lost, who all create...

  8. 4 The Gendered Hierarchy of Discourse
    (pp. 87-110)

    The complex interconnection of discursively linked debates about seventeenth-century politics and strained gender relations that lay at the heart of the “crisis of order” in the period (Underdown 36) informs this chapter on the gendered hierarchy of discourse inParadise Lost.¹ Social disorder results from the violation of the natural and divine laws that decreed that women – who were made in the image of the fatally beguiling Eve herself – must never attempt to usurp the dominant male position. Milton insists inTetrachordon:

    seeing woman was purposely made for man, and he her head, it cannot stand before the breath...

  9. 5 “Learning to Curse”: Colonialism and Censorship in Paradise
    (pp. 111-135)

    As a symbol for England traditionally reserved for celebratory purposes, the edenic garden was lost to the nation’s tragic history. Seventeenth-century writers, notably Andrew Marvell and Milton, appropriated and, more specifically, feminized Eden to represent the defeat of the nation in terms of the desecration of paradise.¹ The feminized garden is the site of political strife and cultural tensions; its openness and unruliness make it especially susceptible to exploitation.² “Englandis the Paradise of women”: according to this proverb, all European women would gladly move to England if given the opportunity, John Ray concludes. Yet the English language itself, Ray...

  10. 6 The Voices of Nebuchadnezzar in Paradise Regained
    (pp. 136-159)

    Recent twentieth-century critics have challenged traditional readings ofParadise Regainedas a non-dramatic and apolitical text. Arthur Milner, who interprets the epic as a product of Milton's early Restoration pacifism, argues nevertheless that the endorsement of a withdrawal from politics should be regarded as a temporary strategy that is only part of a long-term solution. Other critics, from Arnold Stein to Joan Bennett and Christopher Hill, have attempted to dissuade us from readingParadise Regainedas an allegory of Milton's resignation to quietism by examining the brief epic in the context of the poet's continued commitment to the Good Old...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 160-162)

    In this study ofParadise LostandParadise RegainedI have presented a narrative of literary and historical development that resists the model of a “social text” to address the embodied reality of the voice. In the interrelated socio-political, linguistic, and narratological contexts I have examined, voice reconfigures itself as the embodied reality to which subjects in conversation and debate lend their own voices. By extending my investigation to an analysis of Milton's revolutionary conception of history as conversation, I have demonstrated that the view of history as exemplary and challenging to life coincides with and anticipates what will hardly...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 163-190)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 191-208)
  14. Index
    (pp. 209-213)