Author: Phillip J. DONNELLY, Associate Professor of Literature, Baylor University
Why does Book 2 of Paradise Lost devote so much attention to the depiction of demonic deliberative persuasion? I propose that the passage dramatizes the political paradoxes that arise from the attempt to limit deliberations about the public good to matters of instrumental judgment. The argument first outlines what I mean by “rhetorical reading.” In doing this, I also suggest how Milton’s text,the Art of Logic, bears on such reading practices. The second part of the argument illustrates the kinds of insights regarding Paradise Lost that can arise from such reading practices. Ultimately, the narrative poses for readers not simply the task of discerning the difference between virtue and hypocrisy; rather, it invites readers to imagine how a political discourse might preclude such a distinction from even appearing.
John Milton; poetics; Renaissance rhetoric; history of English literature; Paradise Lost.
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