Michael Bérubé, who is an honest-to-goodness literature professor as well as a sometime contributor to Crooked Timber, has just posted a long article comparing apocalyptic fiction by Oxford types – Lewis, Tolkien, Pullman – and one Cambridge type – Milton. You’ll need your sarcasm filters turned up when you read it, but it is highly entertaining. Here’s an excerpt:
But in book two, we’re alerted to the possibility that all these narrative possibilities are dwarfed by the Largest Imaginable Narrative of All, in which Lord Asriel is challenging not merely the calcified Church and its resistance to scientific exploration, but the Authority himself, He Am Who Am. To this end Asriel is holing up in a mountain fortress and assembling the most awesome array of corporeal and angelic dissidents since . . . since . . . well, since the wrong side won the previous mother of all celestial battles eons ago and then got propagandists like Milton to chronicle their victory.
Ah yes, that Milton fellow, a veritable 17th Century Karl Rove, forever twisting our perceptions of the Forces of Darkness and encouraging us to submit to their tyrannical rule. Tsk.