Sunday, 31 May 2009

"and day brought back my night" - Milton

Following on from the news round up yesterday, I tracked down the Armando Iannucci poetry programme on John Milton's poetry (though it is ostensibly about Paradise Lost, the programme takes some of his other work - Areopagitica and some sonnets, early and late). The reason I chased it was to try and disagree with Simon Armitage when he described the moment Iannucci reads a sonnet to a blind man as "one of the most moving pieces of television ever made" or something.

I can't disagree. It's astonishingly emotional. And I'd go so far as to say that Iannucci's show is one of the most important pieces of television made in the past 30 years, as far as literature is concerned. It begs the question, "Why is so much shit made with taxpayers money, when the bar can be set so high by certain television makers?"

Apologies to our overseas readers. National boundaries have once again tried to disprove the notion that art transcends boundaries, via internet controls. You won't be able to watch this, but I moot the idea that we engage the BBC in a petition to make Iannucci's show public domain, globally.

The show is about language, not just poetry. It's about the nonsense of Paradise Lost's neologisms, to the point where Iannucci questions Milton's motives for making God & the side of 'good' so boring, compared to Satan.

The deep, moral message embedded in the use of language surfaces here; and isn't this the wall we're up against? How do you overcome the politicised control of language (i.e. within a capitalist superstructure), when the dominant, mass media channels are continually equating simplicity with clarity? As if complexity cannot be delivered clearly, as if the analysis of the most simple language, won't equally reveal the flaws in that language.

As with Satan's speeches in Paradise Lost, so the control of media and political parties today, revealed in the most arbitrary of political comment, or news report. When I was an undergraduate, reading Satan's speeches, I was pointed to the fact that a single speech of about 30 lines contained 22 lies. I can't remember the particular speech, nor the accuracy of the tutor's claim, but I do know I found several lies. Who can listen to a Presidential Inauguration Speech, or the Queen's Christmas address, without drawing out a similar whitewashing of reality, by rhetoric?

The war on intelligence, on intellectualism, is a war on freedom, ultimately. Without the awareness to describe the limits of your social environment, you wake in night, though you dream in colour.

The show is available on the BBC iplayer until Wednesday 9.59pm. Happy watchings, UK people. Sorry, rest of the world.


The Editors said...

A great different, but no less impressed response to the show here:


Tommaso Gervasutti said...

How true what you have written.
Painfully true for me who I live in a country, Italy, where simplicity-stupidity is the value the main political leaders at the goverment represent and implement...They wouldn't find any mistake in Paradise Lost... they just keep making people drunk with mass-media stupidity, in a perpetual night, with dreams of disgusting colours.

They have enslaved and weakened language to the point of transforming it into a boring same litany.

Best wishes, Davide