Moral fiction in Milton and Spenser
In Moral Fiction in Milton and Spenser, John M. Steadman examines how Milton and Spenser - and Renaissance poets in general - applied their art toward the depiction of moral and historical "truth." Steadman centers his study on the various poetic techniques of illusion that these poets employed in their effort to bridge the gap between truth and imaginative fiction.
Emphasizing the significant affinities and the crucial differences between the seventeenth-century heroic poet and his sixteenth-century "original," Steadman analyzes the diverse ways in which Milton and Spenser exploited traditional invocation formulas and the commonplaces of the poet's divine imagination. Steadman suggests that these poets, along with most other Renaissance poets, did not actually regard themselves as divinely inspired but, rather, resorted to a common fiction to create the appearance of having special insight into the truth.
The first section of this study traces the persona of the inspired poet in DuBartas's La Sepmaine and in The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost. Reevaluating the views of twentieth-century critics, it emphasizes the priority of conscious fiction over autobiographical "fact" in these poets' adaptations of this topos. The second section develops the contrast between the two principal heroic poems of the English Renaissance, The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost, in terms of the contrasting aesthetic principles underlying the romance genre and the neoclassical epic.
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