Cultural Engineering of the Poetic Parental Instinct

Cultural Engineering of the Poetic Parental Instinct

Length: 3542 words (10.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Cultural Engineering of the Poetic Parental Instinct



It seems that biological genetic engineering is not a contained threat; in the last decade it seems to have spilled significantly into cultural and literary studies. In Renaissance studies, this trend becomes evident in Richard A. Goldthwaithe's Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy: 1300-1600 (1993) and especially in Lisa Jardine's Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (1996). These "new histories" of "worldly and wealthy" Renaissance attempt to present consumerism and Thatcherism as the moving spirit of Renaissance society and art. Considering the mere fact that less than 5% of the population could have afforded art, this search for Thatcherite "motions" in Renaissance society and culture seems to correlate, in its result, to what T. S. Eliot defines as artists' search for new emotions in art. Unfortunately, this trend of engineering the cultural history can be observed, albeit in a slightly different form, also in the studies of individual authors and their works, and John Milton and his Areopagitica are no exception.

One of the reasons for this trend in Milton studies and this particular pamphlet can be sought in the over-saturation of Areopagitica criticism dealing, to a great extent, with various aspects of authorial intention and textual authority. This particular strain seems to have been brought to the point of absurdity in Paul M. Dowling's Polite Wisdom: Heathen Rhetoric in Milton's "Areopagitica" (1995), a book from which one can conclude, in contrast to earlier criticism (Barker, Kendrick, Belsey), that Milton's main intention for his pamphlet was to be understood at two levels—as suggested in Dowling's title— and to defend simply the freedom of philosophic speech.

As D. F. McKenzie has noted, recently there has been a shift of scholarly interest in Milton's Areopagitica from "questions of authorial intention and textual authority to those of textual dissemination and readership" (Miller 26). While this distancing from the authorial intention has resulted in some illuminating works about the world of printing, Renaissance economy, censorship and public sphere (Miller, Sherman, Norbrook), it has also produced some curious side-effects because the critics cannot avoid, in their final analysis, touching upon the authorial intention in the light of their newly made discoveries. Thus, Stephen B. Dobranski suggests that, since Areopagitica is about books, "the reading of the text should begin (but not, of course, end) by placing the pamphlet within the world of printing"

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Cultural Engineering of the Poetic Parental Instinct." 123HelpMe.com. 21 Feb 2020
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=36390>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Motivation And The Instinct Theory Of Motivation Essay

- Duran-Espinoza 1 People see motivation as a way to reach a goal or accomplish something that is important in part of their life. Motivation can 't be instantly observed. Instead, motivation can only be understood by indicating a person 's behavior. Researchers came up with theories to try to explain about the human motivation. Two of these theories are the Arousal Theory of Motivation and the Instinct Theory of Motivation. The arousal theory is how we are motivated to maintain an value. People who have a high ideal levels of arousal are dragged into high thrilled behaviors....   [tags: Motivation, Behavior, Instinct, Norepinephrine]

Research Papers
728 words (2.1 pages)

Engineering Technology: Revolutionized Essay

- Advance, advance is the key word when describing the human race to prove that we are the superior race. Ever since the discovery of technology we have linked our minds together for the persistence of progress to modify the aspects all around us for the better. It’s amazing that a simple interest in the beginning will change everything down to a distinct thought. History has proven that the steps forward in technology within engineering have grown larger and are concluded at a more rapid rate and with in the last twenty years....   [tags: Engineering]

Research Papers
2215 words (6.3 pages)

Enginnering Ethics Paper

- In order for an engineering concept to be considered innovative it must be a new method or product; but it can also be a modification to an existing method or product. Generally the function of innovation is to overcome a new obstacle or to improve upon a current solution to any design. For the purpose of this paper innovation will not be defined only as an improvement. However, the innovation may cause new problems to arise. Given this situation the engineer may not have taken all the necessary steps to ensure the success of the application of the new design....   [tags: Engineering]

Research Papers
1317 words (3.8 pages)

Walt Whitman: Poetic Realist Essay

- Walt Whitman – Poetic Realist Walt Whitman, one of the great American poets of the 19th and 20th centuries, was inspired to further his passion and talent for writing by what some would refer to as a call to action, by the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson, known in his time as an “American Transcendentalist” writer, called poets of the mid 1800s into action with his essay entitled: “The Poet.” The fact that Walt Whitman, considered a realist poet, was inspired in part by this transcendentalist perfectly illustrates the constant progression of literary styles of that time....   [tags: transcendentalism, poetic analysis]

Research Papers
1300 words (3.7 pages)

Essay on Engineering Developments

- Engineering, in simple terms, is the application of science for the purpose of fulfilling the needs of society. In order for engineering to fully benefit society, engineering must continue progressing with this technologically advancing world. The most prominent advancements in engineering concern advancements in the field of medicine and health. Both engineering and medicine are so deeply correlated that current medicine would not be as advanced as it is nowadays without the assistance of engineering....   [tags: Engineering ]

Research Papers
982 words (2.8 pages)

Engineering 101 Essay

- Picture the world without skyscrapers, bridges, and even transportation well without engineers that's the world we would live in. A great man by the name of Albert Einstein once said, “Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been." It takes a very unique and skilled person to become an engineer; you have to be dedication to your passion to succeed. The word engineer actually comes from a Latin word meaning "cleverness". Engineering is known today as the art or science of making practical application of knowledge of pure sciences....   [tags: Engineering ]

Research Papers
1189 words (3.4 pages)

Biomedical Engineering Essay

- Biomedical engineering, also known as “bioengineering”, is a branch of engineering that combines the design and problem solving techniques of engineering with biological and medical sciences to improve health-related and medical problems. Bioengineers have made many positive changes in many lives today. By designing live-saving objects such as artificial hearts, dialysis machines, and surgical lasers bioengineers have helped save many lives. Biomedical engineers dates back to over 3000 years with the Egyptians....   [tags: Engineering ]

Research Papers
521 words (1.5 pages)

Aerospace Engineering Essay

- Aerospace Engineering has paved the way for a vast majority of today’s modern technologies; it has contributed to the research and development of stealth, reconnaissance, and commercial aircraft. Aerospace engineering has made revolutionary breakthroughs in the development of both fighter jet and rocket designs, including pilot/passenger safety, thus forever changing the outlook of travel and warfare. One might ask; what is Aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineering is the branch of engineering that contributes to the design, development, and production of aircraft or related systems such as rockets, spacecraft, and missiles....   [tags: Engineering ]

Research Papers
1597 words (4.6 pages)

Aerospace Engineering Essay

- Aerospace Engineering has paved the way for most of modern day technologies; it has contributed to the development of stealth, reconnaissance, and commercial aircraft, its made revolutionary breakthroughs in both fighter jet and rocket designs including pilot/passenger safety, forever changing the outlook of travel and modern warfare and travel. One might say; what is Aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with the design, development, and production of aircraft or related systems such as rockets, spacecraft and missiles; and is closely tied to aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering (Aerospace Engineering)....   [tags: Engineering ]

Research Papers
1348 words (3.9 pages)

The Responsibilities of Engineering Essay

- In the past century, society and common people's lives have undergone significant changes, thanks to engineers' reformed and advanced technologies as well as their essential spirit of invention. Today, these respected engineers' footprints can still be traced anywhere: either those glittering neon lights that remind us, while flying above through a modernized city in the evening, of the achievements of electronic engineers; or those cloud-kissing buildings and sophisticated road networks which evokes us respects for civil engineers; or even the airplanes that we are taking and cars we are driving and that are also contributed to the efforts of mechanic engineers......   [tags: Engineering]

Research Papers
778 words (2.2 pages)

Related Searches

and suggests that in Areopagitica Milton defends his belief "that writing constitutes a social act" or "cooperative effort" and, therefore, "consistently alludes to all the agents—the author, material agents, and readers—who cooperate in the social process of producing books and disseminating knowledge" (132, 138, 142). That "the world of printing" is the most obvious context in which the reading of Areopagitica should begin is a red herring in Dobranski's argument that introduces "new motions" into the pamphlet and sets the reader on a wrong journey. Namely, Dobranski emphasizes Milton's "considerable personal experience with publishing" and his "friendship with booksellers" and takes us for a walk with young Milton "down Watling Street" into publishing houses and bookstores in which he must have "avidly perused their wares," and then we reach Horton in which Milton "had the opportunity to witness papermaking firsthand" (133).

What is disturbing about this journey is the fact that Milton does not mention any of its steps in Areopagitica; interestingly enough, when it comes to influential walks, friendships and "books" Milton is pretty explicit, as in his other pamphlets, about his Italian journey, his walks, talks and friendship with various poets, artists and scientists of his time. These are the "judicious friends" Milton has in mind when he talks about writing as a collaborative process. Thus, Dobranski implants into Areopagitica the mechanical pulse of the book production and trade, the pulse of "life" which Milton supposedly tries to protect. As a result, Milton emerges as a hybrid of poetically inclined Benjamin Franklin rather than a singer of divine mysteries. For the mechanical side of the book production one should read Franklin's Autobiography; when Milton talks about the life of a book, on the other hand, he talks about a living organism and that is not an arbitrarily chosen metaphor.

This organic pulse of a living poetic spirit seems to have been overlooked in a large body of Areopagitica criticism which places the pamphlet within various religio-political controversies and the context of the accomplishments of Milton's left hand, his prose works, rather than within the context of his poetic aspirations and growth. Despite Marjorie Nicolson's warning that "Surely this is one piece of prose that Milton did not write with his left hand" (128) the critics have succumbed to the syndrome of a "left handed" Milton.

One possible explanation for the neglect of Milton's poetic aspirations and career in Areopagitica criticism might be the fact that during the period between 1640-1660 Milton did not complete or publish any major poetic works—with the exception of the publication of his early poetry in 1645. Another misleading feature seems to be embedded in the pamphlet itself; unlike Sir Philip Sidney in his Apology for Poetry, Milton, in his defense, uses more general terms such as books, learning and learned men rather than poetry and the poet. However, this difference simply marks a reversed procedure of the same defense. While Sidney takes the threat to poetry also as a threat to all learning, Milton takes a "wayward" approach by dealing with the threat of licensing of books to all learning and then also to poetry. These are merely tactical differences; the strategy of both poets seems to be the same—to defend poetry. Furthermore, Areopagitica's "poetic style" does not simply reveal the pulse of a temporarily threatened and awakened poet in Milton; there seems to be a double pulse in it: one revealing the aroused poetic parental instinct, and the other, a more latent one, revealing the life of an unborn poetic child whose planning, conception and birth spans his writing career. Thus, the pamphlet appears to be a double defense: Milton's defense of poetry and, more specifically, the defense of the shaping fetus of his great poetic work Paradise Lost. The throbbing of Milton's poetic heart aroused by his parental instinct in Areopagitica is louder than the noise of printing press, paper mills or busy streets and the history of this pulse might be more germane to our understanding of the purpose of this work than the history of book trade.

That Milton had aspirations of becoming a visionary poet, the singer of divine mysteries, becomes evident already in his youth. The throbbing of his poetic pulse becomes audible in his "Vacation Exercise" (1628): "I have some naked thoughts that rove about / And loudly knock to have their passage out" (ll. 23-24). However, the subject at hand temporarily suppresses his aspirations for a more serious poetic work.

Yet I had rather, if I were to choose,

Thy service in some graver subject use,

Such where the deep transported mind may soar

Above the wheeling poles, and at Heav'n's door . . . (ll. 29-30, 33-34)

This "graver subject" reflects Milton's aspirations toward heroic poetry: Homer and the Odyssey are his examples (ll. 35-52). The vigor of this poetic pulse reveals the impatience of a young poet who cannot wait for what he believes to be his "calling," to try his hand at a subject reserved for mature poets. Furthermore, this impatience and complaining about thwarted poetic aspirations is going to become one of Milton's chronic complaints from his early poetry to his prose works and even to Paradise Lost, from his youth to his old age. Only the distracting forces will change.

While Milton believed in the hierarchy in poetry and the notion that young poets should begin with pastorals and that heroic poetry is the product of mature years, already at the age of seventeen he tried his hand at a heroic poem in Latin, In Quintum Novembris, a "little epic" of 226 lines that foreshadows, as Marjorie Nicolson notes, his Paradise Lost (177). Milton's belief that he has been "called" to write heroic poetry influenced his self-education during the Horton period (1632-38) and eventually resulted in plans for an English Arthuriad during his Italian journey (1638-1639). The tremendous formative influence of this journey on Milton's poetic career becomes evident as he invokes its memories in his Latin eclogue "Mansus" as well as in the passages of The Reason of Church Government (1642), Areopagitica (1644), and Second Defense of the English People (1654).

A significant public announcement of Milton's poetic plans came out two years before Areopagitica in The Reason of Church Government. Although Milton claims the pamphlet to be a "wayward subject against prelaty" (667), the more "wayward" part seems to be a detour at the beginning of "The Second Book," the autobiographical part about his poetic "calling," education, Italian journey and planning of "something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die" (668). The significance of this "dislocated" argument is that it shows where Milton's heart was. Upon his return from Italy and under the impression of the acclaim he received there for his poetic abilities he must have started composing Adam Unparadised, the prototype of Paradise Lost (Bradford 27, 49). While he claims the competence on the subject of church reformation on the account of his studies, it becomes clear that the end of all his "labor and intent study" was meant to be poetry, in accordance with his "strong propensity of nature" and the recognition received in "the private academies of Italy" (667-668). The only unresolved question for him at this moment is whether to write an epic, a tragedy or a lyric (668-669).

The placing of this type of public announcement in a pamphlet about church reformation shows that Milton could not dissociate his poetic "calling" and his aspirations from the need for reformation of English church and society. It seems that the question here should not be how this announcement fits into the general argument of reformation but rather how this reformation fits into Milton's poetic plans. There is no doubt that in the Prelacy Milton recognized a threat to the reformation of the church but also as an oblique threat to all learning and poetry. In a way, Milton is John the Baptist of his own poetic child, paving the way through a hostile environment.

A year later a more direct threat came in the form of the Parliament's licensing order, 14 July 1643, the Stationers Company's demands for its strict enforcement and personal attacks on Milton and his "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" by Thomas Hill and the Presbyterian divine Herbert Palmer in the following year (McGrail 99). Consequently, in Areopagitica, Milton recognizes in Presbyters the threat to various freedoms and tolerance posed earlier on by the Inquisition in other European countries and the Prelacy in England: "This project of licensing crept out of the Inquisition, was caught up by our prelates, and hath caught some of our presbyters" (720). That he took it also as a threat to his poetic aspirations becomes evident as he once again, albeit in more general terms, presents his poetic credentials in a paradigm that actually represents the history of his own poetic education.

When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends, after all which done he takes himself to be informed in what he writes, as well as any that writ before him. If in this the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no years, no industry, no former proof of his abilities can bring him to that state of maturity as not to be still mistrusted and suspected . . . and if he be not repulsed, or slighted, must appear in print like a puny with his guardian, and his censor's hand on the back of his title to be his bail and surety that he is not idiot or seducer; it cannot be but a dishonor and derogation to the author, to the book, to the privilege and dignity of learning. (735)

Like a composition instructor, Milton asserts that writing does not begin with the hand but in the head; it is a long and painstaking procedure of research, meditation, study, and consultation with "judicious friends." However, this theory offers at the same time biographical data that enables us to locate Milton at a particular stage in his poetic career. His studies in London, Cambridge and Horton, his Italian journey and conversations with Italian poets and their acclaim of his early poetry and poetic plans for the future are all represented here. While Milton elaborates upon the concept of poetic creativity that includes "labor and intent study," as presented earlier on in The Reason of Church Government, he also indicates that he has reached the point of poetic "ripeness." He recapitulates his poetic manifesto not in a manner of comfortable musing over his plans but with deep concern about the causes by which they are threatened. Once again he recalls the memories of the Italian journey.

when I have sat among their learned men, for that honor I had, and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom as they supposed England was while themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning amongst them was brought; that this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. (737)

Although Milton begins with the general state of learning in Italy, the end of this learning seems to be poetry. The threat to all learning, in a chain reaction, affects also poetry, and the only type of poetry possible under these circumstances is "flattery and fustian," in other words panegyric. Milton seems to have come to this conclusion in his conversations with Giovanni Baptista Manso, a poet and the friend of Tasso, during his visit to Naples. It is in "Mansus" that Milton reveals his plans for an English Arthuriad and where he wishes he would have the same type of friend Tasso had in Manso. Furthermore, Manso, through his friendship with Tasso and working on his biography, must have been acquainted with the fears Tasso had had from the Inquisition on the account of Jerusalem Delivered (1675). Manso could have only bemoaned the fact that no great epic poetry had been written in Italy after Tasso and, at the same time, hailed the poetic vigor and plans of a young English poet. Both poets must have concluded that Italy had become a sterile ground for heroic poetry, and in Areopagitica Milton blames this sterility on the Inquisition and "the Franciscan and Dominican licensers" (738). If we place Milton's concern into broader historical perspective, it is interesting to note that in his extensive study of heroic poetry C. M. Bowra draws a similar conclusion upon the examples from Chinese and Hebrew history; in these countries panegyrics never developed into heroic poetry because of the growth of priestly rule which, among other things, discouraged "too great an emphasis to the individual hero" (47).

While during his Italian journey Milton could have claimed that England in comparison to Italy was a country of "philosophic freedom," in Areopagitica he expresses his disappointment and fears that "if it come to inquisitioning again and licensing, and that we are so timorous as to fear each book and the shaking of every leaf, before we know what the contents are" (738), one can expect the same type of sterility he encountered in Italy. That this type of sterile environment might prevent the English poets from matching the glory of Renaissance Italian poets such as Ariosto and Tasso was Milton's constant concern from the time he began working on what was to become Paradise Lost, and the time of Areopagitica, to the time when this project was in advanced stages of completion. This becomes evident in the preamble to book IX of Paradise Lost as Milton justifies the choice of subject for his "Heroic Song" which pleased him "long choosing, and beginning late" (ll. 25-26). Since he claims to be "Nor skill'd nor studious" in the machinery of heroic poetry, for him

higher Argument

Remains, sufficient of itself to raise

That name, unless an age too late, or cold

Climate, or Years damp my intended wing

Deprest; and much they may, if all be mine

Not Hers who brings it nightly to my Ear. (ll.42-47)

Not only does this passage reflect the expansion of Milton's concern about the causes that might still damp his "intended wing/ Deprest," it also points to the fact that his concern about the damped "glory of Italian wits" in Areopagitica is actually a concern for the future of his own poetic work. These complementary passages simply mark two different stages in the development of Milton's poetic parental instinct in relationship to the development of Paradise Lost: in Areopagitica it is a parental concern for the shaping fetus, whereas in the latter passage it is a concern for the child at the point of birth. Furthermore, Milton's long-term strategic concerns about the poet's "right" age and about the right age into which his "child" would be born become apparent. Neither of them seems to be favorable any more. Has he waited too long to start the poem? Very unlikely. Giving birth to Paradise Lost was for Milton a larger burden than simply composing the poem, which included a long period of study and "maturing." Milton had to fight for an age that would not be "too late" for his poetic work. Fighting for the right age or favorable cultural environment Milton never ceased to be a poet, as some critics seem to think (Bradford 46). His prose tracts are simply a part of this long-term strategy, and Areopagitica has a very crucial place in it.

As for its structure, Areopagitica has a sharp poetic crescendo marked by numerous visions and prophetic spirit. Milton definitely presents himself as one of those "pregnant souls" in "a nation of prophets" (743). He would agree with Sidney that the English "tongue is most fit to honor poesy, and to be honored by poesy" (87), and when he talks about "prophets", like Sidney, he seems to have in mind vates or poets. In his prolusions, Milton claims that the inventions of the poets and their genius are divine (598), and it is the poets who are the "wisest imagers of truth" (616). For this reason when he expresses "the common grievance of all those who had prepared their minds and studies above the vulgar pitch to advance the truth in others" (738) or those who have made a life investment in "our richest merchandise, truth" (741), Milton seems to be primarily expressing his concerns for the future of poetry in England. His defense of "free market economy," metaphorically speaking, represents his concern for his life investment of intent studies and preparation for his poetic calling. While he speaks for others, Milton is equally concerned for his own poetic shares.

Not only does Milton present himself as a visionary poet in Areopagitica, but also he appears as a visionary strategist, analyzing the past, assessing the present and looking into the future as he paves the way for a work that is going to be greater than the poet. Although one could explore numerous similarities between Sidney's Apology and Milton's pamphlet, Sidney's work does not have this long-term strategic impulse. While Sidney's work is based on great tactics, Milton's "defense of poetry" hinges on his own strategic interests. On the other hand, Milton's tactics are quite confusing because of various inconstancies and omissions as well as the plethora of metaphors and literary tropes. It is essential not to confuse those tactical maneuverings with his strategy. Mistaking Milton's tactics in Areopagitica for his strategy equals the confusion of metaphors for literal meaning.



Works Cited


Barker, Arthur. Milton and the Puritan Dilemma, 1641- 1660. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1942.

Belsey, Catherine. John Milton: Language, Gender, Power. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.

Bowra, C. M. Heroic Poetry. London: Macmillan, 1952.

Bradford, Richard. The Complete Critical Guide to John Milton. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.

Dobranski, Stephen B. "Letter and Spirit in Milton's Areopagitica." Milton Studies 32 (1995): 131-152.

Kendrick, Christopher. Milton: A Study in Ideology and Form. New York: Methuen, 1986.

McGrail, Mary Ann. "Milton and Political Correctness." Diacritics 27, 2 (Summer 1997): 98-105.

Miller, Lucasta. "The Shattered Violl: Print and Textuality in the 1640s." Essays and Studies 46 (1993): 25-38.

Milton, John. Complete Poems and Major Prose. Edited by Merritt Y. Hughes. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1957.

Nicolson, Marjorie Hope. John Milton: A Reader's Guide toHis Poetry. New York: The Noonday Press, 1963.

Norbrook, David. "Areopagitica, Censorship, and the Early Modern Sphere." In The Administration of Aesthetics: Censorship, Political Criticism, and the Public Sphere. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1994. 3-33.

Sherman, Sandra. "Printing the Mind: The Economics of Authorship in Areopagitica." ELH 60, 2 (Summer 1993): 323- 347.

Sidney, Sir Philip. An Apology for Poetry. Edited with an Introduction by Forrest G. Robinson. Indianapolis:Bobbs-Merrill, 1970.
Return to 123HelpMe.com