In 1673, a year before his death, John Milton published a pamphlet entitled “Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and what the best means may be used against the Growth of Popery.” His great poems were all behind him, death before him. Oddly, this pamphlet is little known to the general reader of Milton. After looking through a number of textbook collections of Milton for university courses, published during the last several decades, I was surprised to discover none of them contained “Of True Religion,” yet it was the last piece the man ever wrote. All the more startling is that “Of True Religion” presents a portrait of John Milton significantly at variance with the Puritan caricature of him that is often promoted by scholars in the university. All too often Milton is torn out of his historical time and not seen to be in fact the liberal that he was, clearly headed toward the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which further limited the monarchy and prepared the way for the modern efflorescence of individual liberty and freedom. To distort Milton into a one-dimensional Puritan suppresses the complexity of his actual thinking and life….
Now available in
The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays
Forthcoming, September, 2014.
Anthony Grafton, WORLDS MADE BY WORDS: Scholarship and community in the modern west. 422pp. Harvard University Press. £22.95 (US $29.95). 978 0 674 03257 8
Why is there always this insecurity? Why must it always be one or the other? What is it about so many scholars and people of literary sensibility, speaking as a poet, if I may say so of myself, that they cannot see the profound cultural and intellectual value of digital books?
I have on my Sony Reader over 1,400 books and articles, hundreds of them from Google, Gutenberg.org, and elsewhere. The vast majority of them are GREAT BOOKS. I’m currently reading Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, an ebook from Gutenberg, not to be confused with a Harlequin romance, though tastes and temperament may differ.
I’ve been reading great books all my life and am emphatically not threatened by the bourgeoning online availability of much of the entire world cultural heritage. It’s a vast enrichment to be celebrated! Not merely so you can look up a hardcopy in a brick and mortar library.
Only insecure academicians seem to think otherwise. Begrudging recognition of what Google has accomplished falls very short of the mark of what it and others have achieved and deserve, as a result of the over-all computer revolution of the last three decades.
Who is seriously thinking of replacing traditional libraries entirely? I don’t believe it will happen or even can or should happen. There are distinctive virtues of the traditional, physical library that only it can accomplish.
Predictably, here’s the same old, out-dated conception of the role of the humanist, the calling of the sensitive, sophisticated, well-read, intellectual mind, according to Green, apparently Grafton, and so typical of the university today:
What, then, is the true legacy of the Republic of Letters in its pursuit of truth? For scholars, the answer has always been clear. The giants of Renaissance humanism retrieved, in the teeth of medieval opposition, that Graeco-Roman, essentially secular, world view, along with much of its literature, that was in danger of perishing altogether, or at the very least of surviving only as stunted religious allegory and misunderstood moral aphorisms.
This tenor is eventually followed up by the same tiresome, usual pieties, derision for “vocational training,” flourishes in the direction of St John’s College, the value of Latin, etc. The pathetic, endemic failure of imagination among scholars and academia is all it seems either Grafton or Green can come up with. No wonder so many young people have left the humanities and literature behind, in search of what they may not know, but clearly they won’t find it often, today, in a university.
Better to search and read online than in the dusty arguments of hundreds of years of repeated, near-sighted, and blind cliches. Pity, The Times Literary Supplement, a magazine I’ve read for decades, can’t come up with anything better than this either. But then, they’re part of the problem, not the search for the answer.
Author of Don Quixote, Cervantes wrote Journey to Parnassus in 1614, about four years before he died. I’ve wanted to read this book for the last year or more. I had searched antiquarian bookstores online but discovered the only translation of it was in 1883, and they wanted, if memory serves, about $200 for it. Beyond what I could afford. But I kept thinking about it and searching for it once in a while. To my surprise, about a month ago, I stumbled on it on Google Books. They had scanned it in from the graduate library at the University of Michigan, where I was a student, long, long ago. What a thrill finding it. I’ve had to process the copy a little to get it to load on the 4×6 inch screen of my Sony Reader, but better than my laptop. And worth the effort. It allowed me really to be drawn much deeper into his imaginative world…
Cervantes uses the journey motif in a fascinating, humorous way to survey and lambast or applaud Spanish poets of his day and earlier. Somewhat similar to Czeslaw Milosz’s A Treatise on Poetry and other such works. Ultimately, though, it’s a self-serving work, as the genre is, and therefore of a lesser order. Nevertheless, it’s a fine work that ought to be better known in the English reading world.
The text is bilingual, allowing me to dip into the Spanish a little, which I enjoyed.
ANN ARBOR—On September 22, 29, and October 6, the theatre company, Apollo’s Troupe, will stage the theater adaptation of the poem, The Parliament of Poets, written by Michigan poet Frederick Glaysher and published in 2012 by Earthrise Press. Continue reading →