Monday, September 2, 2013

Blogging as a Tool for Studying Milton

creative commons licensed
by Drew Brayshaw
Truth is compared in scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.
--John Milton, Areopagitica

A blog is a sort of streaming fountain, and is perhaps a modern way through which truth can flow and not sicken into the muddy pool of conformity about which Milton speaks. My students and I will blog here about John Milton, his works, and his relevance for today. Team Milton will be our joint effort at exploring his writings and ideas, then developing these into more substantial pieces of writing or media to be shared beyond this blog.

Milton worked out his ideas very publicly, often, publishing pamphlets and interacting with others on the issues of his day. I think he would have taken to blogging very well! But then again, maybe he would not have written Paradise Lost if he had been a blogging superstar. In fact, the more I think of it, the less his great masterpiece is like what is done on blogs.

Could blogging be an impediment to knowledge or to creating great art? Does this sort of public, online, informal writing serve the serious purpose of studying and publishing about a famous author? Is a blog a stream in which truth can flow or grow? Or is it a trendy and superficial thing, and are we merely conforming to a current type of popular expression when we could more profitably learn and express ourselves through more traditional means? Give your opinion in the comments.


  1. I think one of the biggest problems with blogging (from a more traditional standpoint) is that it discourages the prolonged preparatory and revisionary processes that in times past have led to the creation of monumental works of 'literature.' While it is still possible to use blogs for larger projects, as with research blogs or serialized novels released through a blogging platform, digital culture seems to encourage curation over individual creation. Blogging and other forms of digital media offer enormous potential for creative collaboration, and this has certainly been the source of a great number of wonderful inter-medium works that have significantly impacted my life, but I worry at the same time that there is a barrier of superficiality and triviality that will have to be overcome if digital media is to remain a positive force within literary studies. It's important to recognize both the dangers and advantages of these new digital resources and to incorporate into our lives those aspects of digital culture that will help us to become better scholars, creators, and people.

  2. I don't think it's completely fair to compare blogging with what has been called "literature" or what I'll call "great works of art." It can be well crafted and even artistic, but perhaps even predating Gutenberg into oral tradition, there has always been a place for people to express social commentary, blips of ideas, political opinions, and provide simple entertainment. The category of "great works of art," has never really been mainstream. Anciently, because of literacy issues or just distance, so much art was left unavailable to the masses. More recently, whether because of time management choices or personality differences, some people choose to seek out the epics of our day and some do not.

    Now, I'm not arguing against art, but I am trying to make the point that the two have always lived in harmony, being separate, but not autonomous. How would the masses have known about so many of our favorite books if it weren't for the newspapers, political cartoons, and commentary pamphlets of their day? You can tell a few friend face to face, but if you want it canonized, it needs to be public at some point. Great works of art are commentaries on humanity, but humanity's commentary on great works of art may have to take a separate medium.

  3. I really like online forms of academic and journalistic writing. It's thanks to the Guardian that we know so much about the NSA when all other news organizations wouldn't touch Snowden's story. The guy who created XKCD has a blog about theoretical physics that pulls me down the rabbit hole in a similar way that Wikipedia does. Blogging can be a great tool for sharing information with people that may never even think of picking up an academic journal. However, I think it's important to keep in mind two things: right now the academic world still highly values paper forms of communication, and therefore that media still needs to be a part of our writing even in transitional period, and (this one may seem off topic for a second. Bear with me) our rights guaranteed us in the Constitution and its amendments are being stripped away as we speak.

    CISPA almost won out so our government could monitor everything we do on the internet. We're not talking about a dictatorship. We're talking IN THE USA. Doesn't that sound a little off? The NSA, under the Patriot Act, has every right to monitor all our online and telephone communications and store them. If they don't like what you say, they can issue self-written search warrants, and if you tell anyone that you're issued one, they will throw you in jail. Yes, in America. The FBI can do this. Under the Patriot Act. No court required. No third party to protect you.

    It's only a matter of time (since very few people in the USA are taking action to protect their rights at this point) until the online media we consume is censored. It is easy to censor media if it has an online source, say, like Amazon. Government officials not like something said in a book? Just go to the online pdf and change it, and viola! Every edition on people's computers is updated to the censored version with no record of a change, because the original is destroyed. Call me paranoid, but at this point in our history, more of our Constitutional rights are being violated than ever before.

    I may be somewhat technology illiterate and just like my paper books. There's something comforting about a book in my hand. But I really do think there's an ever growing issue in this country with what we're allowing our government to do. As long as I'm alive, I'll be an advocate of printed versions of all academic writing and other literature because once an edition is out, it's much harder to round up all the copies of a book that the government disagrees with or thinks is revolutionary.

    And with this comment, I've probably put myself on the NSAs watch list for potential threats. /-: