DECONSTRUCTING SATAN: THE HERMENEUTICS OF MILTON'S "PARADISE REGAINED"
REVERE, LINDA SANDERS
Doctor of Philosophy
Humanist literary scholars and teachers, implicated in but unaware of the metaphysics of presence grounding their method, have long practiced mediating the literary artwork, representing it as an organic, structured design of signs identical with certain ideas and correspondent mimetically with extra-linguistic reality. These rationalists spatialize the artwork, locking its signifiers into a teachable object or centered design so that the body of literature becomes a collection of objects, a body of texts spatializing voice and consciousness, quantified knowledge packaged and assigned meanings or truth. For phenomenologists like Heidegger and certain post-structuralists, the textuality of the work is an ontological mood or moods, a Befindlichkeit or openness to being in-the-world, a special thrownness with certain possibilities for self-actualizing within that world of the artwork. Signifiers, linguistic things in the phenomenological sense, are specially measured and related to one another for Dasein to interpret as limitations and possibilities, horizons for being. The phenomenological post-modern imagination is hermeneutical, assigning the reader to explore the mood working in the world of the work. Post-modernists espouse a violent hermeneutical discourse, a re-opening of the site of the traditionalist historical sedimentation, a freeplay of criticism so that the artworks are not seen as objects enduring through time with certain inviolable truths or interpretations but rather as human worlds or experiences for that can be interpreted endlessly without closure by all cultures and societies. Paradise Regained is such a decentered text, a poem that questions itself as other than a supplement to the Biblical Word. It is marked by a complementarity, a measuring and metonymy of differences traced in the trackless desert, the groundless ground of the desert where Satan tempts Christ to despair or be saved with self-wrought miracles. The Word as Sign is under attack in Paradise Regained, parodied and supplemented, dismantled and remarked in the play of differing interpretations given the world brought forth in it. . . . (Author's abstract exceeds stipulated maximum length. Discontinued here with permission of school.) UMI