Journal Article

NO SIN BUT IRONY: KIERKEGAARD AND MILTON'S SATAN

Catherine Bates

in Literature and Theology

Volume 11, issue 1, pages 1-26
Published in print March 1997 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online March 1997 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/11.1.1
NO SIN BUT IRONY: KIERKEGAARD AND MILTON'S SATAN

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This essay considers Paradise Lost as a parable about irony, and reads Milton's porm in the light of Kierkegaard's meditations on poetic irony. It suggests that Milton's Satan achieves his disturbing power because he has mastered the logic if the existental ironist: there is no defeating the opponent who knows that he knows nothing. The second half of the essay, however, follows Kierkegaard in looking at ways of going beyond irony, and focuses on the image which Milton draws of God's laughter. As Kierkegaard attempts to move beyond the totalizing ambitions of socratic and hegelian dialetic, he comes up against the frontier beyond which lies what Kierkegaard calls the ‘absurd’ and which he equates, in the vastness of its incomprehensibility, with God. In God's laughter Milton poeticizes this beyond. God's laughter is altogether different from Satan's. It is not the demonic laughter of irony but the expression of the absurd—the absurd which deconstructs, or rather betrays the constructedness of all our categories, including those of the knowable and unknowable.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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