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Bloom Discusses Milton In 1988 Norton Lecture

By Carlton S. Smith

A reknowned literary critic began the spring half of the annual Charles Eliot Norton Lectures yesterday with a lecture on John Milton.

Speaking to an audience of 200 at Sanders Theater, Bloom related Milton's epic poem "Paradise Lost" to the theory set forth in his 1973 book "The Anxiety of Influence." He has argued in several of his works that all poets, especially those since Milton, are torn between wishes to imitate and to surpass earlier poets who inspire them. To do so, Bloom says, they take and disguise the work of their predecessors.

Milton provides an excellent example of his theory, Bloom said. "Milton's major desire was to assert his own authority as a poet-prophet, in excess of Moses and Isaiah," said Bloom.

According to Bloom, Milton's "egotistical sublime" style in the poem indicates that "the true God of Paradise Lost is the narrator."

"Satan is the focus of 'Paradise Lost'," he said. "Christ is a poetic disaster." Bloom also described Milton's God as a "catastrophe, an ill-tempered, sanctimonious bore who resembles Ronald Reagan."

"Satan was the true poet in 'Paradise Lost'," Bloom said. "I find in Satan all my own best qualities. Surely Milton intended this, for Satan has all of Milton's best qualities in him. The only difference," Bloom continued, "is that Satan believes in the duality of matter and spirit."

The lecture series, presented by the Center for Literary Studies, will continue next Wednesday, when Bloom is scheduled to speaking Romanticism. It will conclude on April 27 with a lecture on "Freud and Beyond."

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