By Barbara Kiefer Lewalski
This entire learn translates Paradise misplaced as a rhetoric of literary kinds, by means of getting to the wide spectrum of literary genres, modes, and exemplary works Milton accommodates inside that poem.
Originally released in 1985.
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Extra resources for Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms (Princeton Legacy Library)
More important, by quoting the opening words of Genesis— "In the Beginning"—he suggests that Paradise Lost is a reprise of that book and indeed of the entire Bible: whereas Moses the shepherd-poet first taught this subject, the Miltonic Bard does so now. And his reference to a "great Argument" in tended to "justify the ways of God to men" focuses attention upon the importance of rhetoric to the poem's overall design and to many of its episodes. Formally, the entire proem is an invocatory hymn.
The Muse is a figure for the artistic inspi ration traditionally seen as requisite for the creation of great I N S P I R A T I O N A N D LITERARY A R T poems on lofty themes: to achieve his Christian epic the Miltonic Bard recognizes his need for poetic inspiration from a Heavenly Muse who embodies the principles of sacred art. The Spirit of God is the source of illumination, providing spiritual understanding of divine truth which alone can enable the Bard to conceive his great argument. 12 But he explicitly dissociates her from Du Bartas' "heedful Muse"—restricted to the "Middle Region" of God's created universe lest she sin by presumption13—when he urges her cSvith no middle flight .
Yet for all that, the language and imagery of these proems resist full explication as does the topic they treat, the springs of Milton's poetic creativity. The Miltonic Bard invites us to recognize that such a gift is finally mysterious, and, in some meaning of the term, divine. Like the Miltonic Bard, the two subordinate narrators of Paradise Lost are also imagined as prophets and poets. 36 As prophets, they are charged to accommodate divine truths to others and, like the Miltonic Bard, they do so through literary art, inventing ideal forms of several literary genres so as to educate Adam and Eve, unfallen and fallen, in the values pertaining to those kinds.