[Milton-L] Folger Library exhibit

Nancy Charlton pastorale55 at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 24 01:24:13 EST 2009

The NYTimes warns "Last Chance" and it turns out that is for the exhibit "Breaking News: Renaissance Journalism and the Birth of the Newspaper."


The slide show contains a beautiful shot of a 1644 printing of "Areopagitica," and tersely, remarkably places that piece in a context where it doesn't usually seem to appear in Milton studies. Through the 17th century, what we call "news" made its way from private correspondence and diaries to broadsides and pamphlets. The reviewer, Edvard Rothstein, notes that the display needs to be taken slowly,  for the pieces need to be read as much as seen. 

And it's being taken down on January 31. (O for the wings of a dove!)

 Rothstein notes: "Look carefully, and it is really the birth of the modern West that we
see taking place here: snippets of news and sensation helped define a
shared experience of the past and present, as political debates laid the foundations of democratic culture. If the Reformation is often credited with having turned the West toward
the Enlightenment, another such force must be the growing taste for
news and its multiple retellings. While other cultures were arguing
over the interpretations of sacred texts, England’s was arguing over
the nature of government in print. We are the beneficiaries."

The Areopagitica seems to be placed squarely in the center of the exhibit, and perhaps by implication his immediate issue of censorship.  Then, the thinking behind his positions must have been and maybe still are just as central.

Nancy Charlton


. . . Ring out, ye crystal spheres

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