Milton's cryptic figures.


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While many have examined Paradise Lost in terms of Milton’s use of rhetorical figures, and while several have considered how Milton’s Ramist logic text Artis Logicae may inform readings of his poetry and prose, no one yet has shown how rhetorical figures in his epic display crypsis, a mode of writing which strategically employs ambiguities to meet special needs in a given rhetorical occasion (kairos). Crypsis consists of three categories: (1) Deficiency, the omission of something essential; (2) Redundancy, the addition of something non-essential; and (3) Inversion, the reversal of sequential order. Ramus faults each of these techniques as necessarily deceptive on the ground that they deviate from his famous method of presentation. When Milton revises Ramus’s 1572 Dialecticae into his own 1672 Artis Logicae, he recasts crypsis in all its forms as rhetorically useful and potentially revelatory. In his logic text, Milton shows how crypsis works through rhetorical figures to achieve legitimate pedagogic and poetic goals, and he reveals how discerning readers may interpret it. In this project, I show how Milton employs crypsis through select rhetorical figures in Paradise Lost to meet the unique goals of his poetic kairos and to prompt readers toward recognition of the unique qualities of that kairos. By attending to what Milton omits, adds, or inverts in these rhetorical figures, one may appreciate the characteristics and value of crypsis in Paradise Lost.



Milton. Ramus. Crypsis.