This essay begins with a discussion of recent debates about the value of “critique” and other forms of adversarial reading, arguing that influential proposals for “post-critical” alternatives have privileged the role of fixed psychic states in the practice of interpretation rather than attending to the blur of emotional life. Turning to Roland Barthes’s 1977–78 lecture course at the Collège de France, an understudied precursor to post-critical agitation, I argue that he offers us concepts, “the neutral” and “the panorama,” that invite reflection on the affective conditions of reading. Yet here the “panorama” is no more than an intriguing sketch; Milton enriches our understanding of this concept by developing a detailed description of wayward visual attention. Exploring this dimension of Paradise Regained, I depart from the near-consensus view among scholars that the poem should be understood as a celebration of self-mastery. Ultimately, I show how Milton’s account of the wandering eye both anticipates and challenges recent “post-critical” perspectives by modeling a knowingly unpredictable version of irenic reading.
Simon, David Carroll
"Milton's Panorama: Paradise Regained in the Age of Critique,"
Criticism: Vol. 60:
4, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol60/iss4/6