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Milton and the Ineffable$
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Noam Reisner

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572625

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572625.001.0001

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Paradise Lost: pretending to say the unsayable

Paradise Lost: pretending to say the unsayable

(p.171) 4 Paradise Lost: pretending to say the unsayable
Milton and the Ineffable

Noam Reisner (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the elaborate diffusion of ineffable presences in the monist materialist universe of Paradise Lost. It analyses the various poetic strategies Milton uses to assert his putative ability to say the unsayable while simultaneously allowing the poetic imagery and tone of the poem to suggest that such feats are merely imagined. This opens up to important questions about the poem's implied theory of accommodation, and leads to a more detailed analysis of ineffable ‘speech effects’ in the poem, where Milton first deploys and then subverts apophatic imagery in the process of evoking the otherworldly character of divine, angelic, demonic, and prelapsarian speech. This analysis sheds light on the poem's sustained meditation on the ineffable encounter with the divine as an interiorized spiritual experience, where God's creatures, whether they are fallen angels or fallen man, must contend with the emerging silence that is the consequence of divine privation.

Keywords:   Milton, Paradise Lost, ineffable presences, theory of accommodation, apophatic imagery, prelapsarian speech, fallen angels, fallen man, silence

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