John Thelwall's Use of Satan in "The Peripatetic" and the "Selections"
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In 1805, well-known Jacobin political activist, John Thelwall, opened an Institute for the study of elocution and the remedy of speech impediments. His elocutionary work was originally seen as an apolitical departure from his earlier political work, but scholars have since re-evaluated that perception. Four excerpts from Thelwall’s elocutionary textbook, the Selections, are from Milton’s Paradise Lost, these excerpts form a counter-narrative to the original story that upholds Satan as the true hero. In this paper, I give historical background into Thelwall’s life and work, and into the cultural reception of Milton’s Satan in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I then discuss Thelwall’s use of Milton’s Satan in one of his earlier works, The Peripatetic, to sympathize with the revolutionists in France, before discussing his use of Satan in the Selections to sympathize with the broader audience of students with speech impediments, and anyone affected by oppression. I conclude with an example of how Thelwall’s rich counter-narrative makes Satan the perfect figure to teach political activism to Thelwall’s audience of students with speech impediments, who faced both physiological and societal silencing.