Milton and Religious Controversy: Satire and Polemic in Paradise Lost
Cambridge University Press, 2000 M06 22 - 227 pages
Religious satire and polemic constitute an elusive presence in Paradise Lost. John N. King shows how Miltonís poem takes on new meaning when understood as part of a strategy of protest against ecclesiastical formalism and clericalism. The experience of Adam and Eve before the Fall recalls many Puritan devotional habits. After the Fall, they are prone to Ďidolatrousí ritual and ceremony that anticipate the religious Ďerrorí of Miltonís own age. Vituperative sermons, broadsides and pamphlets, notably Miltonís own tracts, afford a valuable context for recovering the poemís engagement with the violent history of the Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Restoration, while contemporary visual satires help to clarify Miltonic practice. Eighteenth-century critics who attacked breaches of decorum and sublimity in Paradise Lost alternately deplored and ignored a literary and polemical tradition deployed by Miltonís contemporaries. This important study sheds new light on Miltonís epic and its literary and religious contexts.
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