Revelation: Learning Freedom and the End of Crisis
Milton’s and Marvell’s lyrics require that we reexamine our understanding of crisis, freedom, and learning. They explore what would happen if we ceased to think of novelty and change as reform, or even revolution, and imagined it as a present apocalypse. Many of the categories that have come to dominate our understanding of politics and literature (critique, irony, tension, allegory, conflict, climax, and resolution) do not adequately describe these lyrics. The apocalypse, after all, does not support the elaborate edifice of anxious struggle with which we are accustomed to anatomize sociopolitical structures. And this is primarily because the reversals of revolution are not the same thing as the events of revelation. The lesson that these lyrics offer is that we have consistently put our faith in the wrong engine of change. Revolution and crisis look attractive precisely because they can be made permanent and extend into perpetuity the endlessly roiling cauldron of history and politics. The apocalypse, however, holds out the possibility of a real end, and the indictment that we have never really ended anything, that we are all grasping, acquisitive hoarders of history, no matter how catastrophic or painful its events.
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