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Title: Poetry, oratory, and the politics of public speech in Milton, with special references to Samson Agonistes
Author: Lynch, Helen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2710 3237
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis examines Milton’s concern with the idea of public speech, using Hannah Arendt’s account of the Greek polis to reveal what is distinctive about his conception of a godly, republican oratory and poetics, and culminates in a reading of Samson Agonistes. The premise of the thesis is that political writers of Milton’s time were preoccupied with all forms of oratory, and, even when not setting down speech originally given orally, thought of themselves as orators, and of their interventions as public speech. Thus the period saw a ‘pamphlet war’ which, for all the possibilities raised by the medium of print, was nevertheless conducted under the sign of spoken utterance, and the emergence of a print culture preoccupied with the idea of orality. Preferring Arendt’s to the Habermasian model usually invoked in interpretation of this material, the thesis focuses on Samson Agonistes, and the polemical prose of Milton and his contemporaries, exploring Greek (and Roman republican) conceptions of public speech as action, the dichotomy of oikia and polis, distortion of language in ‘dark times’, the distinction between ‘labor’ and ‘work’, and the role of the artist. The inquiry also relates Milton to seventeenth-century debates about language, and to the tradition of classical rhetoric. Given contemporary concern with ‘manliness’ as classical virtu, and with the relative merits of the muscular Attic and ‘feminine’, Asiatic, Ciceronian styles, the thesis considers the influence of Renaissance rhetorical handbooks, and their description of poetry and ornate speech in terms of such apparently feminine pastimes as embroidery or applying make-up. Probing issues of gender and genre, in particular romance, the thesis examines the problematisation of rhetoric and the figure of the orator under the political and historical pressures of the time, to investigate Milton’s dramatisation of the beneficent and malign forms and uses of oratory.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available