Through a Glass Darkly: Milton's Reinvention of the Mythological Tradition

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Duquesne University Press, 1996 - Classicism - 345 pages
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In this wide-ranging and ambitious study, John Mulryan contributes significantly to our knowledge of the mythological underpinnings of John Milton's works. Perhaps our most Christian poet, Milton chose to communicate his vision of reality in the language of ancient Greek and Roman mythology. As Mulryan points out, Milton as no other poet before him mastered the texts of classical mythology in their original languages and seldom wrote a line that did not betray their influence. Here, we are reintroduced to the Renaissance millieu that was not only intimately familiar to Milton but that helped to shape his thinking about fundamental matters that he addresses in his poetry, particularly Paradise Lost. Mulryan's study first establishes the incredible richness of the mythological tradition that was available to Milton, including many sources that have either been ignored or depreciated in current scholarship. Milton's own view of classical myth is then explored, and Mulryan provides insight into how this view had to deal with the problem of reconciling pagan learning and Christian thought. Finally, this study demonstrates how Milton drew upon and assimilated the mythological traditions in his poetry as a reflection of the receptiveness to such acts of "creative mythologizing" during his own time. "Through a Glass Darkly" is primarily historical in its methodological approach, but it is relevant also for scholars using structuralist, deconstructionist, feminist, new historicist, psychoanalytic, or postmodernist approaches to Literary Studies. Myth is itself a kind of language that Milton, in a sense, "deconstructs." As this study shows, Milton decodes the mythological tradition, only to encode it in another way.

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ONE Milton and the Classics
Two Milton and the Church Fathers
THREE Milton Martianus Capella Bernard

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About the author (1996)

JOHN MULRYAN is professor of English at St. Bonaventure University. Mulryan edited the volume Milton and the Middle Ages (1982) and he is the editor of the journal Cithara: Essays in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition.

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