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Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University The task of the sensitive reader To ‘historicize’ (connect historically) To read closely (trace.

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Presentation on theme: "Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University The task of the sensitive reader To ‘historicize’ (connect historically) To read closely (trace."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University The task of the sensitive reader To ‘historicize’ (connect historically) To read closely (trace inner connections and linkages) To interpret and to re-interpret

2 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Tracing historical connections Can we read a literary text without a knowledge of history? More importantly, can a literary text be written without the interference of history? Do note that this is part of what we have discussed while looking at the ways we can read Milton's epic poem. Going back to the same problem of text and context, we keep returning to the idea of 'historicity'. Even while we understand how important it is to be aware of the more theoretical issues (as of narration) we cannot leave aside the involvement of history and society. A sensitive reader has to stay abreast of both sets of issues.

3 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Reading Milton’s epic Paradise Lost : it is supposed that Milton began to compose his poem in 1658 In that year, Milton’s second wife and her child died. Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, died in September. This is just one way of enlarging our perspectives on the literary work -- by connecting it with its immediate historical accompaniments.

4 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Milton in his time Between the execution of the king Charles I in January 1649, and the Restoration of his son, Charles II, in May 1660, was the period of the republican spirit. This interregnum was a political adventure in English history. For Milton this was of great importance and he saw it as the cause to which he was devoted

5 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Reading politics ? One critic (Gordon Teskey) says: Milton was deeply taken up by questions surrounding the the breakdown of the revolutionary concept of the English Commonwealth and of what had happened to its leader, Oliver Cromwell. Milton, Andrew Marvell and Dryden were official mourners at Cromwell’s funeral. The Restoration of Charles II was, in the light of Milton’s revolutionary loyalties, like the fall of the English people. It was as though the English people had surrendered their liberty. The result of 'historicising' Milton's work gives us these connections.

6 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University The nature of evil What was man’s ultimate destination ? This question, for Milton, would give the answers to the problems he saw in English life. What is the nature of the Fall? What is its connection with human history? Thus, what is the nature of evil? Human history begins with the Fall of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden where they had perfect liberty. If God’s plan (for human history) is the increase of human liberty, then why does a whole nation surrender its liberty?

7 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University The figure of Satan Milton’s Satan is a complex figure: he appears to be endowed with attractive qualities (concern for his mates, oratory powers, grand size, indomitable nature, etc.) but these should be seen as arising out of an evil spirit Thus our historicising, as we have done above, gives us these problems or issues to deal with: the ideology behind the figure of Satan. We should remember that despite the apparently political conflicts over the distribution of power in England, the grounds were provided by religious ideology. You should keep this aspect of English society firmly in mind.

8 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University The tradition of Satan

9 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Satan, who in Milton's Paradise Lost is also called Lucifer, on his way to bring about the downfall of Adam. Gustave Doré's illustration for Paradise Lost, Book III, lines by John Milton.(1861-8)Gustave DoréBook III, lines John Milton

10 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Satan

11 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University 1636

12 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University 1666

13 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University

14 The Devil on Horseback 1493

15 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Some points of reference Milton The Jacobean era refers to the period in English and Scottish history that coincides with the reign of King James I (1603– 1625) of England, who was also James VI of Scotland. The Jacobean era succeeds the Elizabethan era and precedes the Caroline era, and specifically denotes a style of architecture, visual arts, decorative arts, and literature that is predominant of that period.English Scottishhistory James I Elizabethan eraCaroline eraarchitecturevisual arts decorative artsliterature The word "Jacobean" is derived from the Hebrew name Jacob, which is the original form of the English name James.Hebrew

16 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Another set of reference-points Gordon Teskey (2005) : “He was known as a political controversialist, as a disestablishmentarian (someone who opposes an “established,” state-run church), as an enemy of bishops and of “hireling priests”... as a proponent of divorce, as a defender of the regicide, and as the chief propagandist of the English Commonwealth under the dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell– in short, as a vigorous proponent of everything that, after 1660, was regarded by many in England as criminal and seditious. This view of Milton did not fade away after 1667, with the appearance of Paradise Lost.... he is a poet around whom argument and controversy on the most central issues – on religion, history, politics, and gender relations, in short, on freedom, authority, and power– have never ceased to rage.”

17 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Let us clear our thoughts Which set of historical reference-points helps us to understand Paradise Lost? The personal history, the political history, the literary history or the cultural history (the Biblical, the native English)? These are really rhetorical questions. Or, statements that are put down as questions. You have to read the literary work -- Paradise Lost, in this case -- as an object involving various aspects. However, you should remember that there is much more to do here. For instance, you still have to understand just how Milton re-reads the Bible as he writes the poem. Did he justify all that it contained? Or did he place the Bible within the framework of English history? Try to think about these things.

18 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University History is all-encompassing so there is no breaking it up We should also remember that language is dynamic; its shape undergoes changes over extended time

19 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University So, where is the meaning ? (In all of these, perhaps, including the details) Some theorists will assert that the meaning of a work is never fixed. Try and find out why this should be asserted.

20 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Some details The rise of partisanship in English political life (‘Tories’ who supported the right of the Catholic James, Duke of York, to succeed Charles II; ‘Whigs’ who supported interference in the royal line of succession in defence of Protestantism) The revisions of the concept of king and parliament; the setting of the limits of royal prerogative The political experiments between 1653 when Cromwell became Lord Protector, and 1660 after his death saw the Restoration in May 1660, of Charles II; policy veered between “godly reform and traditional political institutions” The rise of the religious Dissenters (following the restoration of the Church of England) The Glorious Revolution of 1688

21 Dr. Uttara Debi, Asst. Professor, IDOL, Gauhati University Literary details The style of the epic (read Douglas Bush, pp.476 – 481, Norton Critical Edition) Andrew Marvell, the metaphysical poet, Milton’s contemporary


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