Threshold Poetics: Milton and Intersubjectivity

Threshold Poetics: Milton and Intersubjectivity

Threshold Poetics: Milton and Intersubjectivity

Threshold Poetics: Milton and Intersubjectivity

Synopsis

"Threshold Poetics: Milton and Intersubjectivity is a study of the challenge intersubjective experience poses to doctrinal formulations of difference. Focusing on Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes and using feminist and relational psychoanalytic theory, t"

Excerpt

Threshold Poetics seeks out the various ways in which milton represents selves coming into contact with what is not the self, forcing a recognition not so much of otherness—which would simply sustain a hierarchical duality—but rather of separate “selfness,” which entails a more delicate negotiation of difference. Milton is not a poet of delirious merger with the other, not prone to render ecstatic comminglings. His interest in threshold experience seems less concerned to dissolve separateness in a nostalgic fantasy of infancy, for instance, or in unbounded union with God, than to map out the way in which boundaries between individuals are both maintained and transgressed, and to explore the psychological and cultural implications of that activity. By attending to Milton’s representation of liminal encounters, we can explore the dense problematic of relationality to which he returned throughout his writing life. Such forms of intersubjective experience as looking, conversing, touching and parting, hearing, even eating and working, blur the borders of subjectivity, confusing, in both pleasurable and dangerous fashion, the self’s integrity. But they also allow for mutuality, a respect for the idiosyncratic desires of separate selves. Rather than obliterate selfhood in either the appropriating moves of merger or the insistent otherizing of intolerance, Milton becomes a surveyor of the threshold, considering the psychosocial possibilities of transitional spaces in which no one person or position has precedence over another. By staging scenes of dramatic intersubjective encounter, Milton’s work —particularly Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes—suggests that sameness and difference alike can be located between people, and even . . .

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