British Literature 1616-1780
Sep. 29: Bunyan and Butler
Please be sure to read the introductory note to both Bunyan and Butler.
The readings for today combine a staunchly and eloquently Puritan narrative about
salvation (and a little bit about religious persecution) and a long favored burlesque of
Puritans by Royalist who survived the Civil wars and years of commonwealth. The most
important work for the class is Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and we will read
Butler's Hudibras as an example of a different form of poetry (the burlesque)
and another literary treatment of anti-Puritan sentiment.
Reading Notes and Discussion Questions:
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
This straigtfoward allegorical narrative is fairly accessible, and hopefully will pose
few problems of understanding. In order to appreciate what Bunyan achieves in this popular
and enduring story, we need to know the meaning of Allegory
From Perrine's Sound and Sense 11th edition, allegory can be understood as
"a narrative or description that has a second meaning beneath the surface. Although the
surface story or description may have its own interest, the author's major interest is in the
ulterior meaning.... Allegory has been defined sometimes as an extended metaphor and
sometimes as a series of related symbols. But it is usually distinguishable from both
of these. It is unlike extended metaphor in that it involves a system of related comparisons
rather than one comparison drawn out. It differs from symbolism in that it puts less
emphasis on the images for their own sake and more on their ulterior meaning. Also
these meanings are more fixed. In allegory there is usually a one-to-one correspondence
between the details and a single set of ulterior meanings. In complex allegories the details
may have more than one meaning, but thse meaning tend to be definite. Meanings do not ray
out from alleogry as they do from symbol" (99).
There is a similar definition of "allegory" in the terms section at the back of the
NAEL where they give an example from Bunyan's work
What is the allegory here? How does Bunyan employ it? What is the ulterior meaning?
Have we read other allegories this semester? How do they compare with Pilgrim's
Progress as allegories?
The excerpts from Pilgrim’s Progress highlight the mindset of a religious
dissenter in the late seventeenth century, and as such it can provide a
literary alternative to the representation of the “losers” in the Restoration
(compare, for example, Dryden’s representation of dissenters as hypocrites and rebels
in Absalom and Achitophel as well as the depiction of Hudibras in Butler's work).
Dissenters believed in the political republic and the freedom to pursue independent
Christian forms of religion outside of state control. The Anglican view dominated
after the restoration of the king and state religion, and at various times
dissenting preachers and congregations were legally harassed and abused.
course, one should consider how Christian’s journey represents
the individual’s struggle against temptations of the world, but you could also
examine what it means for Christian to pursue his journey alone with only the
aid of his book. What or who authorizes Christian’s journey/salvation?
What is the significance of Christian’s burden? What is the city of Destruction?
Why do people resist what Christian has learned in his book?
What book does Christian read? Why is the act of reading so important?
What is the allegorical significance of the “journey”? Where does he come from
and where does he go? How does this compare with other journeys of literature?
Do you need to know the Bible in order to understand Bunyan’s allegory? Why or why not?
Evaluate the categories of items sold at Vanity Fair (2140-1). Can you name modern
What is the purpose of the certificate? Why does Ignorance fail to gain
entrance into the Celestial City? Where does he go?
How is this story an allegory for religious dissent?
3. Butler's Hudibras
The term to remember when discussing this work is "burlesque." The burlesque is
a mockery but it differs from the mock-heroic (see "Mac Flecknoe" for an example) by
making the subject of the satire low and ridiculous as opposed to raising it to inappropriate
dignity. Butler's poem describes the Presbyterian knight in low and vulgar ways, and
it uses a different poetic line and diction to do so. What line does Butler use? How
is the line and the diction appropriate for his purposes?
We will pay particular attention to his attack on Presbyterians (p. 2161, lines 187-228).
How does he describe the religious practices of the Presbyterians? How do the lines
sound as you read them?
What is the source of the hostility in this poem? (You may want to draw on the introductory
note and the footnotes for more information.) In what ways is the rough cadence and vulgar
language appropriate for his poem's purpose?
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