"Sion's Songs": Milton, the Psalms, and Counter-Tradition

David Gay


In her concept of counter-tradition, Sheila Delany articulates a tradition of opposition that affirms the place of critical dissent within a broader cultural heritage spanning historical periods and encompassing diverse cultures, nations, and religions. While Delany includes Milton's Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce as a representative text, Milton's Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes present further models of counter-tradition. In both poems, the Psalms provide a tradition of literary excellence and critical resistance for heroic figures confronting oppression. Structural, dialectical, and typological features of the Psalms illustrate counter-tradition as a dynamic association of memory, history, experience, and education in the development of individual readers. Thus, counter-tradition is a concept of enduring critical and pedagogical value.

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