Christian

On what basis can or should we treat a text a canonical? Discuss with reference to two texts

Posted on Updated on

(Words 1207)

The treatment of a text considered canonical can take so many individual forms where it can be appraised as life-enhancing. It is a text that reaches thoughts that the reader could never imagine. It should have a value that makes it human for our understanding although always easily accessible to a modern reader. For a contemporary reader, Dante’s ‘The Inferno and Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ are two books of immense structure and plot that take the reader on a journey into another world. They rank as canonical and can be treated that way.

A canonical story must have structure, contrasts and literary devices that help to develop and inform the text’s major themes and motifs. One of Dante’s major motifs was political arguments. He lived through a political nightmare that was Italy. The reader sees how these issues Dante uses in his epic poem to condemn political figures by scattering them through the circles of hell. He gives them their just retribution. The poem speaks for him. Dante takes the subject matter of these events and put them before they happened. He extrudes a powerful message in his language, his personnel political belief that church and state should exist as separate powers on earth is a courageous task. For good measure, he also throws in ancient literary figures as such referring to classical writers as Homer, Ovid, and Virgil. Dante’s poem is an overarching allegory; it explores its themes using dozens, even hundreds of symbols, with the most important factor being the punishment of sinners.  The Inferno as a canonical epic refers to the quality of the poem, which creates and has in some way an exploring or celebrating something more substantial than the particular characters and places it describes. We find Dante’s fundamental idea of creating an imaginative correspondence between a soul’s sin on earth and the punishment it receives on earth. Dante’s complexity has created a universe.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

Comments on Little Black Boy by William Blake

Posted on Updated on

One of the first writers of the Romantic period William Blake’s writings are a curious mixture, his voice in the early 1790’s was the conscience of the Romantic Age. He was an artist with words and believed himself to be guided by visions from the spiritual world, which lie heavy in this poem I have chosen. I would like to focus on the poem ‘Little Black Boy’ to which Blake centres on the spiritual awaking to a divine love that transcends race. It tells of how the ‘Little Black Boy’ came to know his identity and to know God.

Blake’s poem is dramatic, that is, in the voice of a speaker other than the poet himself. This poem of Blake’s uses the Little Black Boy to narrate the poem in first person. This projects the reader clearly inside the consciousness of the boy in the poem giving us the images from the defined observer. As a result, Blake stands outside innocence and experience in a distance position. The innocence is from ‘Songs of Innocence’, Blake’s first collection of poems, to which Blake’s subject matter shows the innocent, pastoral world of childhood. This was juxtaposed with experience, which was taken from ‘Songs of Experience’, his other collection, which shows the adult world of corruption and repression, therefore, showing the two contrary states of the human soul. The ‘songs of innocence’ dramatise the naive hopes and fears that inform the lives of children, namely the ‘Little Black Boy’ who tells this didactic story about himself in this poem.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.