Milton and Isaiah: A Journey through the Drama of Salvation in Paradise Lost

Milton and Isaiah: A Journey through the Drama of Salvation in Paradise Lost

Milton and Isaiah: A Journey through the Drama of Salvation in Paradise Lost

Milton and Isaiah: A Journey through the Drama of Salvation in Paradise Lost

Excerpt

One of the remarkable changes in recent Milton criticism is a tendency to recognize the Bible in Milton's poetry not merely as a source for his poetic subjects but as a single most important influence and model for his style and narrative technique, events and characters, genres, and imagination. Critics begin to use the Bible as “an interpretive context” for analyzing Milton's poetry and to conduct an “intertextual reading in which the important thing is the interaction” between the Bible and his poetry. Leland Ryken suggests that the Bible itself, divided into the Old and the New Testament, is a good example of intertextual literature. There is a continuous presence of the Old Testament in the New; and the New Testament is the result of reinterpretation, reorientation, and replacement of the Old Testament. The New fulfills the Old and builds upon the earlier source; and there is an inseparable and correlative association between the two texts. Ryken finds the same pattern in the relationship between Milton's poetry and the Bible:

Milton's poetry is consistently rooted in the Bible, not by way of static allusion but in such a way as to involve interaction or carryover between the two texts. . . . Certainly Milton's poetry does not exist apart from the reader's awareness of the active presence of the Bible in it.

Precise ways in which the Bible enters Milton's poetry in this manner are varied. The possibilities include allusion, echo, parallel, antithesis or reversal (resulting in irony or parody), and the interpolation of a detail from the Bible into a new context. The biblical pre-text can provide imagery, scene, characterization, or action for Milton's poetry. Intertextual reading takes place whenever a person assimilates the poetry of Milton with a simultaneous awareness of something in the Bible. (21)

The purpose of my study is, therefore, to see the Book of Isaiah, the greatest of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, as the assumed . . .

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