Democratic Intellect: Freeing Thought for the Democracy To-come
The core argument of this thesis is on the aporetic moment/space of decision and the poetics of the to-come in John Milton's works, with the fundamental importance of the individual. For Milton, this moment/space is radically critical and free, and individually problematic, which goes beyond the usual private/public space even though the public aspects and responsibilities of the person's decision demonstrate exceptional significance in the form of public enactment. In Milton's terms, the experience of such an aporetic moment/space of decision is indispensible for those who want to become a "fit reader" and develop the essential qualities and attributes. I will argue that Milton has always written with the desire to highlight and exemplify the absolute singularity of such a moment and experience throughout his life and works, both prose and poetry.
The thesis will represent its arguments in two sections. The first section, through a consideration of Derrida's arguments in his works (in particular: "The Laws of Reflection: Nelson Mandela, in Admiration," "The Future of the Profession or the Unconditional University," "Force of Law: 'The Mystical Foundation of Authority,'" and "This Strange Institution Called Literature") together with a selection of Milton's writings, mainly prose (including: Areopagitica, Eikonoklastes, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and Paradise Lost), will examine and identify possible continuities and convergences between the two writers. Such an intimate juxtaposition and close reading of their works has promisingly offered recognition of continuities, convergences, and affinities in their thought in terms of the qualities and attributes of the "fit reader" and the "democratic intellect." In the opening five chapters, the interactive reading highlights fundamental questions and notions for both writers, including the question of exemplarity or singularity, the notion of public space without conditions, the question of justice beyond the law, the critique of violence, and the question of literature as a lawless institution, providing me with the essential terminology to formulate new interpretations of Milton's works, in particular, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes.
The second part of the thesis uses the conceptions and terms developed in the opening chapters to read the two late poems, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, as singular examples of Milton's fit reader, the aporetic moment/space of decision, and the poetics of the to-come by setting out the general comparative points between them. The focus of my arguments in these chapters will be on the hypothesis that Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes are both demonstrating the aporetic moment/space of decision - confusingly replete with uncertainties, complexities, and indeterminacies - and the dominant poetics of the to-come as well as arguing for the singularity of the moment, decision, and enactment of the decision in each poem. I will argue that Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes provide outstanding exemplifications of Milton's notion of the "fit reader" developing similar qualities and attributes in common with Derrida's "democratic intellect."Milton's works represent the aporetic moment/space of decision as an ongoing process; it is a singular moment in which uncertainties and indeterminacies produce unresolvable choices, but where a decision must nonetheless be made; it is a moment of "trial" the result of which cannot be known to the individual "fit reader" in advance. Milton's late poems, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, explore the critical significance of this moment and demonstrate that no certain, fixed, pre-programmed, or predetermined model or frame can be applied to the resolution of aporetic moments of decision in different times, places, and contexts. The "fit reader" is one who radically and critically reads and re-reads aporetic situations, full of inescapable indeterminacies and unresolved choices, and expresses his individual judgement in the singular form of a true decision (not calculation) to advance the possibilities of truth, justice, and humanity.