John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667, 1674) is often classified as a Renaissance epic, along with the great narrative poems of Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser. However, this generic designation tells us much less about the formal nature of the poem than we learn when we contextualize it among the long English narratives with which it was contemporary: Butler's Hudibras (1663, 1664, 1678), Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678, 1684), Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel (1681), and Behn's Love-Letters between a Noble-Man and His Sister (1984, 1985, 1987). What Paradise Lost shares with these other texts is a parodic approach to literary form, one that combines the imitation of an authoritative form with an adaptive detachment from it. This approach shows the influence of several experimental, mixed forms that flourished during the Restoration period—some of traditional standing, some emergent, and some momentary and occasional.

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