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The Politics of ParodyA Literary History of Caricature, 1760-1830$
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David Francis Taylor

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300223750

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300223750.001.0001

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Paradise Lost, from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Paradise Lost, from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

(p.140) 5. Paradise Lost, from the Sublime to the Ridiculous
The Politics of Parody

David Francis Taylor

Yale University Press

This chapter assesses John Milton's Paradise Lost as a source for graphic satire. The many graphic satirical parodies of Paradise Lost disclose the workings of two different political readings of the poem, readings that respectively function to attenuate and foster rather different conceptions of the Miltonic sublime. The first, and more familiar, regards Milton's epic as an anti-Whig allegory that warns readers of the dangers of opposing the constitutional authority of the sovereign. In contrast to this reading of Paradise Lost, one that looks to it as a political allegory of and for the present, a different and still more complex approach to the poem emerges in a number of James Gillray's mature caricatures. In a manner that is highly idiosyncratic, Gillray seems less interested in conscripting Milton's text as a cautionary tale of rebellion and more concerned with exploiting the generic peculiarities of Paradise Lost for satirical and political effect.

Keywords:   John Milton, Paradise Lost, graphic satire, parodies, Miltonic sublime, political allegory, James Gillray, caricatures, rebellion, peculiarities

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