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Milton, Spenser and the Epic Tradition Patrick J. Cook

Milton, Spenser and the Epic Tradition

Patrick J. Cook

Published May 1st 1999
ISBN : 9780754600480
208 pages
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 About the Book 

In this study of the epic genre and its evolution from Homer to Milton, Patrick Cook rejects this claim by Bakhtin and reveals instead that the six works he addresses are filled with discursive tensions, conflicts and indeterminacy. These six works, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, Orlando Furioso, the Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost are chosen as key texts which have actively reworked their generic inheritance, handing it on, greatly enhanced, to their successors. Starting with an analysis of Homers Iliad, Cook identifies a number of core generic elements, in particular the employment of the imperial citadel as a sacred centre, orienting the heros aspirations centripetally and vertically. The ways in which the Odyssey then revised epic space-time to reflect new values of the city-state are discussed, with chapter two addressing the manner in which the Aeneid draws upon both Homeric models to analyse the paradoxes of empire. Attention turns next to the Renaissance and Ariostos Orlando Furioso, which demonstrated the ability of epics appeal to traverse both classical and Judaeo-Christian cultures, fusing and thereby revitalising both epic and medieval romance forms. In the Reformation, Spenser pursued this fusion further in his Faerie Queene, placing unprecedented demands on the ability of heroes and readers to make sense of a world at once unceasingly disorientating and charged with means for interpreting experience. Coming at the end of such a rich and well-known tradition, Milton was able to create meaning both by allusions to previous works and by the conspicuous absence or obliqueness of allusion. In simultaneously employing and undermining the conventions of epic, Paradise Lost dramatizes both human failure to understand Providential order and the intuitive remedy for this misunderstanding.