The Virtues of Mediation: Milton’s Ludlow Maske

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This essay, partly by way of Milton’s Spenserian engagements, argues that A Maske is neither a celebration of resolve, nor a univocal assertion of exceptional virtue that facilitates some fusion of pleasure and virtue, but is instead a risky exploration of the mediacy of virtue and the virtues of mediation, however much they fail to satisfy. Several kinds of mediation texture A Maske: mediation as the middle ground between disparate things, mediation as intervention in conflict, mediation as the making sensuous of ideas or putting into medium, and, above all, mediation as the material and social process that takes place in and through opposites that both require and condition one another. Consequently, Milton exploits rather than forecloses the dialectical promise of the masque form and leaves open, but not unanswered, the difficult questions of immediacy and transcendence. Drawing on the writings of T. W. Adorno, this essay suggests that mediation—and his related concept, ‘constellation’—afford supple and illuminating ways with which to think through the contradictions of Milton’s poetic-philosophical thought. It offers new interpretations of cruxes in A Maske and shows how each of its characters entails others through a combination of fissures and resemblances. In presenting not an isolated form of virtue, but sketching instead a constellation of interrelated forms, A Maske reveals how—in tending to its mediations—the drear woods of the world might be made to disclose the starry threshold with which we begin and from which we are removed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-501
Number of pages17
JournalReview of English Studies
Issue number315
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2023

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