Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Poem for the Belligerent

Armor along with arms to be put away
Tarnished from a pitched battle fought
To protect our favored nation and
Kept the holy kingdom from ruin
Heavy scales shown protection and
Displayed defense from weapons thrust
Through the heart of Vien during days
When might was given grace to assist
Its decisive stop at the gates of our city
Defended by those who resisted them

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Against Milton as Canon

    I'd like to provide counter points to what I wrote last week about Milton. I have been fixated about where he stands among other poets such as Shakespeare. I have looked at Lycidas by analyzing it, which was more interesting, but now it seems I'm putting Milton forth as the example of a strong poet. Let's see what has been said about him:

    When looking at Milton's work as a potential center of criticism, somehow Shakespeare must be put aside to make room for Milton. If you follow Bloom's thought about how Shakespeare is the center of the canon, then his work will show us what is thought to be meaningful literature.

    Why cannot Shakespeare have his place, while Milton has his? Given that Milton relies on him as a source of influence, it would seems that the one who influences is greater than the one influenced. So in addition to the works of these writers, which you could assess for yourself, there is also the critical opinion that Shakespeare has the preeminence.

    It seems that the canonization process is completely artificial. Critics have come up with their lists as to what should be considered valuable writing. And their evidence is to be seen within the pages of the well written plays, poems and whatever else. Read the works for proof of their value.

    It's artificial in the sense that critics use criteria that seem to be arbitrary, but when you look at them as a whole, there is a more substantial method as to how critics do criticism. The lists that have been drawn up, for example, could be compared to generate a more perfect way of deciding what counts as canonical writing.   

    But why should Milton be considered foremost, which puts him in the center of how criticism should operate? Look at Milton's work and compare that to the plays of Shakespeare to see how differently these poets wrote. Shakespeare made characters, while Milton wrote criticism. 

    Milton certainly wrote different types of literature other than what Shakespeare wrote, but someone like John Dryden should be given credit for writing literary criticism, not Milton. If we are going to stack poetical works side by side, that itself would be an artificial process that needs to be explained.

    Milton gave us a tradition of being self-aware of one's position within what we consider to be canonical writing. There is nothing from Shakespeare analogous to what Milton wrote within his political tracts about his desire to give posterity a type of canon. He seems to have an edge here.

    There are interpretations of Shakespeare's work such as Prospero, who throws away his magical book and staff at the end of the Tempest, which would show self-awareness of the author within his own work. As for bequeathing a type of canon to posterity, the First Folio put together by his fellow actors serves as such.

    In some ways Milton does have the advantage, but Shakespeare provides a response for any point that would indicate how one poet is greater than another. So for next time I'd like to get away from these canonical debates for something for concrete. I might have another analysis up soon.