Notes on Milton Pt. 3

Applying a Deconstructive critical approach to Milton, and ascribing to Paradise Lost a certain opacity, takes from Milton what is almost invariably attributed to him- the textual rectitude of a "true Englishman," whose earnest directness and moral-ethical fortitude behind earnest textuality does not preclude complexity and nuance. Involving Milton in a French sensibility, its perversity around issues of formal-thematic side-winding and general destabilization, is in many ways a more interesting theoretical approach to an artist too long left parochial now that the twenty-first century is underway. The Aughts did not, to my knowledge, include a convincing apostrophe of Milton from the avant-garde elite; a perceived parochialism, both in Milton and in his entrenched critics, may have been the reason. The Aughts, in a general sense, were Edenic for many of us; we had leave to cherish our Satanic voices (Silliman, Bernstein, and the rest) as foils, forcing us to sharpen our rhetorical wedges and employ them in the most dramatic possible contexts to highlight our own aesthetic rectitude within innovation, its perpetual upheavals, and the meta-narratives of the time we developed, in the comprehensive manner of Raphael and Michael.

The level flatness of the Teens is richer terrain from which to begin a new approach to Milton. What we had of Paradise has been lost- the avant-garde has no real momentum left to progress in any coherent direction, many of its leading Aughts lights are missing in action, and to light a textual candle in the direction of possible momentum now is to be left stranded and derelict. To Frenchify Milton- to point out seams which show in Milton's staunch textual rectitude- is an act loomed over by a zeitgeist which takes for granted that a drastic recession will force seams to show, both in present moments and in interactions with the English-language canon, willly-nilly. Our Satanic mentors (again, Bernstein, Silliman, etc) scoffed as they plummeted from the Heaven of historical awareness and consonance, and not only subjected canonicity to radical interrogations but adopted rhetorical positions against the canon and canonicity in (as is the case with Milton's Satan) face disfiguring fashion. We listened; and one reason I, personally, did not believe is that (as I intuited) the canon is the only rock to fall back on when a zeitgeist party ends. I would challenge the notion that any serious student of literature could fall back on a Bernstein or a Silliman text in 2014; and the Stygian Council of Language and New York School poets will only live forever beneath the proverbial earth. The Frenchification of Milton is more than a mere pasttime- it takes the aggregate of our Aughts theoretical influences and places them within the rich textual history of seduction, salvation, and damnation. By forcing friction, against a zeitgeist stalemated between venues and impulses, it may take us into a realm (again) of ferment-within-destabilization, so that we might again fight the Heavenly battles which were, and remain, our due in the avant-garde.