Milton and Scriptural Tradition: The Bible into Poetry

By James H. Sims; Leland Ryken | Go to book overview

Introduction
Leland RykenThe topic of this book is paradoxically both old and new. The roots reach back three centuries, to the time when editors of Milton began commenting on the poet's indebtedness to the Bible. Yet the present collection of essays is also a contribution to a critical approach that is just beginning to emerge. What is new is the way in which critics view the Bible, which in turn determines how they view the relationship between it and Milton's poetry.If we are willing to simplify for the sake of clarity, we can contrast the old and new approaches to the subject in terms of the following dichotomies.
1. Instead of viewing the Bible as a source for Milton's poetry, critics now consider it as an influence and model.
2. Instead of emphasizing biblical content, critics are interested in biblical genres.
3. Instead of using the Bible to identify the origin of Milton's poetry, critics use the Bible as an interpretive context for examining the poetry.
4. Instead of finding biblical allusions in Milton's poetry, critics conduct intertextual readings in which the important thing is the interaction between the Bible and Milton's poetry.
5. Instead of viewing the Bible as primarily doctrinal, critics look upon it as a work of imagination.

The two halves of these pairs are not mutually exclusive, nor do I wish to sever new approaches from more traditional ones. But in each case the center of gravity has shifted.

The new approaches to the topic of Milton's relationship to the Bible have resulted chiefly from different ways of looking at the Bible. As I survey the field in this introduction, therefore, my focus will be on the nature of the Bible itself as a literary text,

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