Milton, Poet of Duality: A Study of Semiosis in the Poetry and the Prose

Milton, Poet of Duality: A Study of Semiosis in the Poetry and the Prose

Milton, Poet of Duality: A Study of Semiosis in the Poetry and the Prose

Milton, Poet of Duality: A Study of Semiosis in the Poetry and the Prose

Excerpt

The following chapters, twelve in number, involve almost all of Milton's poetry, in English, Latin, and Italian, and a good deal of his prose, especially Christian Doctrine, Areopagitica, and the divorce tracts. The first ten chapters form, in effect, a continuous commentary on Paradise Lost. The last two extend that commentary to Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, in order to demonstrate their intimate connection with Paradise Lost, their similar concern with monism, duality, and the sign. All the chapters are written in as non-specialized a vocabulary as possible and are intended for a general academic audience. If they are frequently informed by contemporary discourse on language and literature, they are equally dependent on "old-fashioned" historical scholarship. Being suspicious of method, I welcome in them any method that delivers insight--but with one hand on the pen, one eye on the next page. Furthermore, and in part because of my suspicion of method, the chapters are deliberately essayistic, since I am trying to generate and defend an entire argument as quickly and as wholly as possible.

That argument, in brief, posits that the dual and the duel (Satan versus Christ, for example) are powerful heuristic tools in the reading of Milton--this because he was a man and a poet deeply concerned with human and divine relationships, with the couples or pairs man and woman, man (or woman) and God. In its attention to numbers, the argument is not a position on, or a study in, numerology; I am not competent in that discipline and am only marginally interested in it. My concern with "Milton's Numbers" is rather with what might be called the being of being alone: we are alone until we are all-one by becoming two--man and wife, friend and friend, worshiper and deity.

My play with words is certainly expendable; it harbors no mystery and claims no right/rite to awe. Rather the wordplay is a sign that . . .

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