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Mythic rhetoric: influence and manipulation in Milton's paradise lost and Pullman's his dark materials

Pattimore, Rhys Edward (2015) Mythic rhetoric: influence and manipulation in Milton's paradise lost and Pullman's his dark materials. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials are two grand feats of mythic storytelling. Through their compelling stories, reinforced by influential rhetoric, each possesses the ability to affect individuals who read them. These myths work to influence their audiences without the author’s own personal beliefs being forced upon them (such as Milton’s scathing condemnation of certain styles of poetry, or Pullman’s overtly critical view of Christianity). Instead, the rhetoric used to tell these stories work in more subtle ways and with the aim of realising a different goal. These myths seek to do more than simply entertain and this thesis argues that each myth acts as a guide that can help readers engage with a more dialectic way of thinking. Following cues from Kenneth Burke’s approach to rhetorical theory and symbolic action, as well as Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Structuralist mytheme concept, this thesis demonstrates how each myth’s structure, narrative content, and speeches made by key characters, portray the author’s intended message. Paradise Lost and His Dark Materials may tell their stories in different ways, but each is grounded in their shared use of the Christian story of the Fall of Man, a story that each author adapts to tell equally familiar yet unfamiliar tales, full of diverse characters believing in different ideals. These characters argue, debate and reason for what they believe in and, as a result, establish an eclectic range of arguments for readers to consider and learn from as they engage with each myth. This thesis focuses on the effect of each author’s rhetoric and how it is used to influence their audiences to engage in new ways of thinking.

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