An increasing erosion of modes of interpretation based on elitist assumptions about literature and its superiority helps to rupture hierarchical modes of thought and evaluation so that even the so called ‘greatest’ authors are losing their so called authorial genius and can be read together with lesser contemporaries, and it was necessary as well as made possible by the recent development of post modernist theories.
Twenty five years ago, Shakespeare was regularly read and taught as an “upholder of state” and “religious orthodoxies” but in newer critical work, as in E.M.W. Tillyard’s Elizabethan World Picture, Shakespeare is reinterpreted as less comfortably orthodox, estranged from the elitist values of his own era instead of taking Shakespeare’s greatness for granted or giving it worshipful admiration, scholars of postmodernist bent are arguing that Shakespeare was not an author at all in exalted Renaissance sense but a playwright who functioned in much the same way as other learning dramatists. The post modernist scholars are investigating the social, economic, and intellectual factors that worked together to make Shakespeare canonical. The post modernist scholars sparked a renewal of interest in historical method on the part of recent scholars in the field. Steven Urkowitz’s Shakespeare’s Revision of King Lear revolutionized Shakespearean studies by opening up the perspectives of multiple authorial versions of the canonical plays with keeping social contexts of the time.
So post modernist reading of Shakespeare opened a new perspective that Shakespeare is canonized as great author not due to his genius but due to the social economic and intellectual factors, which were not in the count before recent developments.
However, the new approaches cannot be applied to all the “classical authors”. Unlike Shakespeare, Milton had the copyright over the works. But slowly and gradually, Milton also goes out to postmodernist look, as he was studied during 1950s and 1960s. Different approaches have given different dimensions to Milton. He has now been reinterpreted as “less genial, more rigidly doctrinaire Protestant,”
Stanley Fish’s book Surprised by Sin is a landmark study on Milton. His study shows Milton as a crabbed and inflexible figure. It shows Milton as someone unflattering in his own right. Fish also talks about Milton’s writerly strategies. Earlier concept was that what Milton did was done unconsciously, but Fish shows he did everything in his sound consciousness. Anyway, the latest reading of Milton is that if he has refused to die in properly postmodern fashion, he has at least become divided against himself.