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Lyric ApocalypseMilton, Marvell, and the Nature of Events$
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Ryan Netzley

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823263479

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823263479.001.0001

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Hope in the Present

Hope in the Present

Paratactic Apocalypses and Contemplative Events in Milton’s Sonnets

(p.67) Chapter Two Hope in the Present
Lyric Apocalypse

Ryan Netzley

Fordham University Press

Milton’s sonnets explore what it means to imagine an alternative, hopeful future. This exploration occurs not only in Milton’s contemplative sonnets, but also in those praising Cromwell, Fairfax, and Vane, and even the sonnet-form conclusion to Samson Agonistes. The sonnet is important for Milton because it allows for an imagination of apocalyptic events outside a logic of resemblance. The formal properties of sonnets are then means of incorporating occasions within verse without recourse to analogy or verisimilitude, or to a providential narrative to be revealed in an imminent future. Milton’s sonnets also translate the apocalypse into a paratactic rhetorical order, firmly rejecting the notion that apocalyptic events amount to a logical or causal development. The concluding choral sonnet of Samson Agonistes applies this paratactic principle to an entire dramatic history, demonstrating that it is only lyric that can tell us what it means for something to happen in the present. In this sense, this dramatic poem that concludes with apocalyptic destruction is ultimately and perhaps counter-intuitively an attempt to take seriously what a poetics and a politics of hope would entail.

Keywords:   contemplation, hope, kairos, Milton, John, parataxis, sonnets, use

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