January 21, 2009

paradise regained

My first real encounter with reader response theory comes by way of John Milton. The 1970s seem forever ago, don't they? They right well should. My parents hadn't even met each other yet. Still, every text on Milton in our library seems to predate 1976. Luckily, Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin was first published years before the cut-off date and I have a copy sitting beside me as I type this. The choice quotation from Lamentations gracing the title page ("Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord") leads me to believe that I will enjoy rummaging through this batch of dated essays.

What have I been doing lately? Why, reading Paradise Lost, of course! All 12 books of it in a mere 12 hours last weekend. Grueling? Yes. Boring? Certainly. Worthwhile? Uhhh...probably. There's even a press release. Yes, I've been growing fond of Satan, the cheeky little bugger. After I reflected on Satan's seeming childishness in class today, my professor carried my comment through a nice analogy. He's like an adolescent who, after being sent to their room, spitefully resolves to rebel against his parents as the ruler of his bedroom (a solitary space all his own, to do with as he pleases). So deluded is the boy that he fails to realize that the entire house belongs to his parents. The room is not and will never be his alone. Thus Satan is bound, though his speeches weave together threads from great mythical spools; from the epic poets and all their labours, for everything is written as though "the mind is its own place."

The song he'd be singing, sporting short-shorts like Stuart Copeland (or something even more revealing):

I think Sting would make a good Satan. He's certainly got the hair for it.

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