Using a framework based on J. L. Austin’s understanding of performative speech and Angela Esterhammer’s work on how things are done with words in Milton’s and Blake’s poetry, this study provides an extended close reading of the speech acts of characters in Blake’s epic poem Milton. With the exception of what we learn about in the part of the poem known as the Bard’s Song, Blake’s Milton is dedicated to providing an incredibly detailed account of the numerous facets of the instant of time immediately prior to apocalypse, an instant in which Milton is the protagonist, and Blake himself a participant. This study explores how in the poem sacred history proceeds towards and through the instant by means of the speech act. This extended commentary is intended for not just Blake scholars but also the common reader who wishes to approach Blake’s brief epic for the first time. For scholars, this monograph offers a full account of a crucial but previously unexplored theme in the scholarship about Milton. For the common reader, it offers a comprehensive introduction to what Northrop Frye called ‘one of the most gigantic imaginative achievements in English poetry’.
|Routledge Focus on Literature
Published online: 16 November 2022.