Lyric Apocalypses, Transformative Time, and the Possibility of Endings
The early modern period in England witnesses the development of modern notions of historically significant occurrences as well as the transformation of apocalypticism as a mode of thought. Alongside these conceptual developments, the century between 1588 and 1688 also experiences a flowering of lyric verse in English. Together, these developments require a rethinking of the nature of events and what it means for something to happen in the present. Many of our modern understandings of temporal occurrences—dialectic, disruption, narrative, teleology—are not up to this task. Andrew Marvell and John Milton use the immediacy characteristic of lyric to imagine events without the security and hubris of retrospection. They insist on an apocalypticism that does not confidently project an immutable human subject into the future. Their lyric works, composed around the transformative period of the Civil Wars, Regicide, and Commonwealth, attempt then to conceive change as a present experience, not as something hopelessly deferred into the future or lost in an irretrievable past.
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