Surprised by Sin, Assured by Grace: Milton's Redeeming Irony
This chapter demonstrates how, in addition to surprising Milton's readers by sin, the affective stylistics of Fishian literary analysis can be applied to Milton's treatment of the aftermath of the Fall to assure readers of the provision of grace. Irony, when treated as a species of allegory, has a crucial ethical function within Milton's poetics, comparable to its purpose in Socratic, Pauline, Lutheran, and even Kierkegaardian discourse, so that, when the ironic mode is applied to Book Ten's fallen world, the action of what I term ‘redeeming irony’ can bring Adam, Eve, and the reader back from a cursed state to a state of grace, from penitence to repentance, and from an apprehension of divine wrath to a realization of divine mercy. The chapter concludes with a close reading of the human drama of Book Ten that illustrates how Milton's highly nuanced Christology and soteriology are inseparable from the poem's core meaning.
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