[Milton-L] [Fwd: Re: When and how did the canon die?]

Kirby J. Booker kirby_jo21 at yahoo.ca
Sat Nov 19 19:43:47 EST 2005

  I agree with regards to the Norton texts and I recall my high school engl lit teacher telling us much the same thing, although he did teach Books I, II and IX from the anthology as part of a survey, as you say. Some of us were eager to read the epic in full after, but just as many, I think, were relieved to move on. How then, can large canonical works be fairly treated in an anthology? Or should they be presented in full or not at all? 
Carol Barton <cbartonphd at earthlink.net> wrote: 
          Nonetheless: if the reference is to the Norton anthologies, the attrition described is very close to true: the "books get bigger and bigger [containing "new" writers more and more obscure] and Dryden and Milton fade into the subchapters and indexes," silenced, one supposes, by the demon Diversity. What's included is an embarrassment; better it were, were nothing included at all. (The rendering of _Paradise Lost_, for example, is so minimal as to be a mockery for any student beyond the just-out-of-high-school level. No serious Miltonist would use the "selections" to teach--unless one intended only to cover a single "representative" book in a survey course.) Even then, I wouldn't use it: Milton, like Chaucer, is an acquired taste, developed after exposure sufficient to "normalize" his long periods and sometimes convoluted syntax. You don't breed familiarity, teaching books I or IX . . . all you do is foster contempt.
  Best to all,
  Carol Barton 

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