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Bold Conscience
Luther to Shakespeare to Milton
Joshua R. Held
University of Alabama Press, 2023
How the conscience in early modern England emerged as a fulcrum for public action
 
Bold Conscience chronicles the shifting conception of conscience in early modern England, as it evolved from a faculty of restraint—what Shakespeare labels “coward conscience”—to one of bold and forthright self-assertion. The concept of conscience played an important role in post-Reformation England, from clerical leaders to laymen, not least because of its central place in determining loyalties during the English Civil War and the regicide of King Charles I. Yet the most complex and lasting perspectives on conscience emerged from deliberately literary voices—William Shakespeare, John Donne, and John Milton.

Joshua Held argues that literary texts by these authors transform the idea of conscience as a private, shameful state to one of boldness fit for navigating both royal power and common dissent in the public realm. Held tracks the increasing political power of conscience from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Henry VIII to Donne’s court sermons and Milton’s Areopagitica, showing finally that in Paradise Lost, Milton roots boldness in the inner paradise of a pure, common conscience.

Applying a fine-grain analysis to literary England from about 1601 to 1667, this study also looks back to the 1520s, to Luther’s theological foundations of the concept, and forward to 1689, to Locke’s transformation of the idea alongside the term “consciousness.” Ultimately, Held’s study shows how conscience emerges at once as a bulwark against absolute sovereignty and as a stronghold of personal certainty.
 
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Carnal Rhetoric
Milton’s Iconoclasm and the Poetics of Desire
Lana Cable
Duke University Press, 1995
In recent years, New Historicists have situated the iconoclasm of Milton’s poetry and prose within the context of political, cultural, and philosophical discourses that foreshadow early modernism. In Carnal Rhetoric, Lana Cable carries these investigations further by exploring the iconoclastic impulse in Milton’s works through detailed analyses of his use of metaphor. Building on a provocative iconoclastic theory of metaphor, she breaks new ground in the area of affective stylistics, not only as it pertains to the writings of Milton but also to all expressive language.
Cable traces the development of Milton’s iconoclastic poetics from its roots in the antiprelatical tracts, through the divorce tracts and Areopagitica, to its fullest dramatic representation in Eikonoklastes and Samson Agonistes. Arguing that, like every creative act, metaphor is by nature a radical and self-transgressing agent of change, she explores the site where metaphoric language and imaginative desire merge. Examining the demands Milton places on metaphor, particularly his emphasis on language as a vehicle for mortal redemption, Cable demonstrates the ways in which metaphor acts for him as that creative and radical agent of change. In the process, she reveals Milton’s engagement, at the deepest levels of linguistic creativity, with the early modern commitment to an imaginative and historic remaking of the world.
An insightful and synthetic book, Carnal Rhetoric will appeal to scholars of English literature, Milton, and the Renaissance, as well as to those with an interest in the theory of affective stylistics as it pertains to reader-response criticism, semantics, epistemology, and the philosophy and psychology of language.
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Coming of Age as a Poet
Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath
Helen Vendler
Harvard University Press, 2003

To find a personal style is, for a writer, to become adult; and to write one’s first “perfect” poem—a poem that wholly and successfully embodies that style—is to come of age as a poet. By looking at the precedents, circumstances, and artistry of the first perfect poems composed by John Milton, John Keats, T. S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath, Coming of Age as a Poet offers rare insight into this mysterious process, and into the indispensable period of learning and experimentation that precedes such poetic achievement.

Milton’s L’Allegro, Keats’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and Plath’s The Colossus are the poems that Helen Vendler considers, exploring each as an accession to poetic confidence, mastery, and maturity. In meticulous and sympathetic readings of the poems, and with reference to earlier youthful compositions, she delineates the context and the terms of each poet’s self-discovery—and illuminates the private, intense, and ultimately heroic effort and endurance that precede the creation of any memorable poem.

With characteristic precision, authority, and grace, Vendler helps us to appreciate anew the conception and the practice of poetry, and to observe at first hand the living organism that breathes through the words of a great poem.

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Coming To
Consciousness and Natality in Early Modern England
Timothy M. Harrison
University of Chicago Press, 2020
In Coming To, Timothy M. Harrison uncovers the forgotten role of poetry in the history of the idea of consciousness. Drawing our attention to a sea change in the English seventeenth century, when, over the course of a half century, “conscience” made a sudden shift to “consciousness,” he traces a line that leads from the philosophy of René Descartes to the poetry of John Milton, from the prenatal memories of theologian Thomas Traherne to the unresolved perspective on natality, consciousness, and ethics in the philosophy of John Locke. Each of these figures responded to the first-person perspective by turning to the origins of how human thought began. Taken together, as Harrison shows, this unlikely group of thinkers sheds new light on the emergence of the concept of consciousness and the significance of human natality to central questions in the fields of literature, philosophy, and the history of science.
 
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Courts, Jurisdictions, and Law in John Milton and His Contemporaries
Alison A. Chapman
University of Chicago Press, 2020
John Milton is widely known as the poet of liberty and freedom. But his commitment to justice has been often overlooked. As Alison A. Chapman shows, Milton’s many prose works are saturated in legal ways of thinking, and he also actively shifts between citing Roman, common, and ecclesiastical law to best suit his purpose in any given text. This book provides literary scholars with a working knowledge of the multiple, jostling, real-world legal systems in conflict in seventeenth-century England and brings to light Milton’s use of the various legal systems and vocabularies of the time—natural versus positive law, for example—and the differences between them.

Surveying Milton’s early pamphlets, divorce tracts, late political tracts, and major prose works in comparison with the writings and cases of some of Milton’s contemporaries—including George Herbert, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and John Bunyan—Chapman reveals the variety and nuance in Milton’s juridical toolkit and his subtle use of competing legal traditions in pursuit of justice.
 
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Delirious Milton
Gordon Teskey
Harvard University Press, 2006
Composed after the collapse of his political hopes, Milton's great poems Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes are an effort to understand what it means to be a poet on the threshold of a post-theological world. The argument of Delirious Milton, inspired in part by the architectural theorist Rem Koolhaas's Delirious New York, is that Milton's creative power is drawn from a rift at the center of his consciousness over the question of creation itself. This rift forces the poet to oscillate deliriously between two incompatible perspectives, at once affirming and denying the presence of spirit in what he creates. From one perspective the act of creation is centered in God and the purpose of art is to imitate and praise the Creator. From the other perspective the act of creation is centered in the human, in the built environment of the modern world. The oscillation itself, continually affirming and negating the presence of spirit, of a force beyond the human, is what Gordon Teskey means by delirium. He concludes that the modern artist, far from being characterized by what Benjamin (after Baudelaire) called "loss of the aura," is invested, as never before, with a shamanistic spiritual power that is mediated through art.
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The Empty Garden
The Subject of Late Milton
Ashraf H. Rushdy
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992

The Empty Garden draws a portrait of Milton as a cultural and religious critic who, in his latest and greatest poems, wrote narratives that illustrate the proper relationships among the individual, the community, and God. Rushdy argues that the political theory implicit in these relationships arises from Milton’s own drive for self-knowledge, a kind of knowledge that gives the individual freedom to act in accordance with his or her own understanding of God’s will rather than the state’s. Rushdy redefines Milton’s creative spirit in a way that encompasses his poetic, political, and religious careers.

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George Eliot's Dialogue with John Milton
Anna K. Nardo
University of Missouri Press, 2003
In George Eliot’s Dialogue with John Milton, Anna K. Nardo details how Eliot reimagined Milton’s life and art to write epic novels for an age of unbelief. Nardo demonstrates that Eliot directly engaged Milton’s poetry, prose, and the well-known legends of his life—transposing, reframing, regendering, and thus testing both the stories told about Milton and the stories Milton told.
In Romola and Middlemarch, Eliot’s contemporary audience would immediately have recognized in her heroines’ stories the plight of Milton’s daughters—enlisted as readers for a blind poet and scholar. By evoking the well-known legends of Milton’s life in these novels, Eliot places Milton in dialogue with himself in order to imagine new possibilities. In Romola, a daughter uses what she has learned from one Miltonic father to liberate herself from subjugation to the other, and in Middlemarch, Eliot tests Milton’s fundamental assumptions about gender and knowledge by evoking, then reframing scenes from his life and his epic Paradise Lost.
This strategy for establishing a dialogue with authoritative discourse, which Eliot evolved in midcareer, is complex and elegant. Eliot’s first full-length novel, however, poses a direct challenge to the pastoral assumptions of Milton’s “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”—a challenge that she extends to the theology of Milton’s epic of a lost pastoral paradise. In Adam Bede, Eliot summons Miltonic patterns into situations that expose their absence, leaving not the denial of these patterns, but their echo. Having separated Milton’s characteristic patterns of choice from his theology, Eliot then began to experiment with transformations of the Miltonic hero. By reimagining the story of the virtuous Lady of Comus, Eliot discovers the possibility for a heroic deliverance for the beleaguered heroine of The Mill on the Floss. In Felix Holt and Daniel Deronda, she first characterizes a male protagonist as a Miltonic hero, and then confronts her female, rather than her male, protagonist with the trials faced by that hero.
In these complex transformations, we see Eliot’s strenuous and lifelong dialogue with Milton—a dialogue that liberated Eliot’s imagination. The author shows that Eliot opens the authoritative discourse by and about Milton to new possibilities envisioned by a towering female intellect. Scholars of both seventeenth-century and nineteenth-century British literature, especially those specializing in Eliot or Milton, as well as theorists engaged in the ongoing debate about intertextuality, will find this book of great interest.
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Historical Milton
Manuscript, Print, and Political Culture in Revolutionary England
Thomas Fulton
University of Massachusetts Press, 2010
John Milton's Commonplace Book is the only known political notebook of a radical polemicist writing during the English civil war, and the most extensive manuscript record of reading we have from any major English poet from this period. In this rethinking of a surprisingly neglected body of evidence, Thomas Fulton explores Milton's reading practices and the ways he used this reading in his writing. Fulton's close study of the Commonplace Book suggests that this reading record is far from the haphazard collection of notes that it first appears but is instead a program of research which had its own ideology that responded to the reading habits and practices of Milton's contemporaries. Created mostly in the late 1630s and during the overthrow of the Stuart government in the 1640s, Milton's reading notes yield a number of surprises, the most fundamental being a highly structured commitment to political history. Fulton explores the relationship between the manuscript author and his polemical persona, placing the Commonplace Book, the manuscript "Digression" to the History of Britain, and some wartime poems in revealing contrast to the printed political texts of this period.
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How Milton Works
Stanley Fish
Harvard University Press, 2001

Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin, first published in 1967, set a new standard for Milton criticism and established its author as one of the world's preeminent Milton scholars. The lifelong engagement begun in that work culminates in this book, the magnum opus of a formidable critic and the definitive statement on Milton for our time.

How Milton works "from the inside out" is the foremost concern of Fish's book, which explores the radical effect of Milton's theological convictions on his poetry and prose. For Milton the value of a poem or of any other production derives from the inner worth of its author and not from any external measure of excellence or heroism. Milton's aesthetic, says Fish, is an "aesthetic of testimony": every action, whether verbal or physical, is or should be the action of holding fast to a single saving commitment against the allure of plot, narrative, representation, signs, drama--anything that might be construed as an illegitimate supplement to divine truth. Much of the energy of Milton's writing, according to Fish, comes from the effort to maintain his faith against these temptations, temptations which in any other aesthetic would be seen as the very essence of poetic value.

Encountering the great poet on his own terms, engaging his equally distinguished admirers and detractors, this book moves a 300-year debate about the significance of Milton's verse to a new level.

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Humanism and Classical Crisis
Anxiety, Intertexts, and the Miltonic Memory
Jacob Blevins
The Ohio State University Press, 2014
While earlier critics have demonstrated significant insight into the relationship between the classical world and the early modern period, Humanism and Classical Crisis: Anxiety, Intertexts, and the Miltonic Memory, by Jacob Blevins, offers a new psychoanalytic approach to understanding classical reception, specifically during the early modern period. Blevins asserts that influence and imitation are primarily driven by anxious desires to identify the poetic self with the past while simultaneously affirming the autonomy and individuality of the self within its own cultural, ideological, and poetic moment. Since the poet cannot hold positions simultaneously in both past and present, anxiety irrupts as the poet fails to understand the fissures in his sense of identity and how that identity is articulated in poetic expression.
 
Blevins grounds his approach in the theories of Jacques Lacan, whose work challenges the very notions of what identity is and, as a result, exposes the complexities of identity formation. Areas and authors covered include imitations and translations of classical works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England and France by Andrew Marvell, Edmund Spencer, Pierre Ronsard, Joachim Du Bellay, Ben Jonson, Sir Thomas Wyatt, and John Milton.
 
This book not only provides a new perspective on early modern poetic imitation, but also offers a foundational methodology for examining the classical presence within the modern self.
 
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Increase And Multiply
Governing Cultural Reproduction In Early Modern England
David Glimp
University of Minnesota Press, 2003
A wide-ranging study of the ideology of population control in early modern England. Across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a growing notion of the value of a large populace created a sense of urgency about reproduction; accordingly, a wide array of English writers of the time voiced the need not merely to add more people but also to ensure that England had an abundance of the right kinds of people. This need, in turn, called for a variety of institutions to train-and thus make, through a kind of nonbiological procreation-pious, enterprising, and dutiful subjects. In Increase and Multiply, David Glimp examines previously unexplored links between this emergent demographic mentality and Renaissance literature. Glimp's analysis centers on humanist pedagogy as a mechanism for creating people capable of governing both themselves and others. Acknowledging the ways in which authors such as Sidney, Shakespeare, and Milton advance their own work by appealing to this vision, Glimp argues that their texts allow us to read the scope and limits of this generative ideal, its capacity to reinforce order and to become excessive and destabilizing. His work provides unprecedented insight into the role of fantasies of nonbiological reproduction in early modern political theory, government practice, and literary production. David Glimp is assistant professor of English at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.
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Is Milton Better than Shakespeare?
Nigel Smith
Harvard University Press, 2008

With literature waning in the interest of so many, is Shakespeare the only poet the public can still appreciate? John Milton, as this book makes clear, speaks more powerfully to the eternal questions and to the important concerns of our time. The Milton of this volume is an author for all Americans—conservative, liberal, radical—not only because he was a favorite of the founding fathers, his voice echoing through their texts and our very foundation, but also because his visionary writing embodies the aspirations that have guided Americans seeking ideals of ethical and spiritual perfection.

Nigel Smith makes a compelling case for Milton’s relevance to our present situation. In direct and accessible terms, he shows how the seventeenth-century poet, while working to write the greatest heroic poem in the English language, also managed to theorize about religious, political, and civil liberty in ways that matter as much today as they did in Puritanical times. Through concise chapters that chart Milton’s life at the center of the English and European literary and political scenes—as well as his key themes of free will, freedom and slavery, love and sexual liberty, the meaning of creation, and the nature of knowledge—Smith’s work brings Milton, his poetry, and his prose home to readers of our day. A provocative and enlightening introduction, for newcomers and informed readers alike, this book rediscovers and redefines Milton for a new generation, one that especially needs and deserves to know him.

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Kant and Milton
Sanford Budick
Harvard University Press, 2010
Kant and Milton brings to bear new evidence and long-neglected materials to show the importance of Kant’s encounter with Milton’s poetry to the formation of Kant’s moral and aesthetic thought. Sanford Budick reveals the relation between a poetic vision and a philosophy that theorized what that poetry was doing. As Plato and Aristotle contemplate Homer, so Kant contemplates Milton. In all these cases philosophy and poetry allow us to better understand each other. Milton gave voice to the transformation of human understanding effected by the Protestant Revolt, making poetry of the idea that human reason is created self-sufficient. Kant turned that religiously inflected poetry into the richest modern philosophy. Milton’s bold self-reliance is Kant’s as well.Using lectures of Kant that have been published only in the past decade, Budick develops an account of Kant based on his lifelong absorption in the poetry of Milton, especially Paradise Lost. By bringing to bear the immense power of his reflections on aesthetic and moral form, Kant produced one of the most penetrating interpretations of Milton’s achievement that has ever been offered and, at the same time, reached new peaks in the development of aesthetics and moral reason.
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The Legal Epic
"Paradise Lost" and the Early Modern Law
Alison A. Chapman
University of Chicago Press, 2017
The seventeenth century saw some of the most important jurisprudential changes in England’s history, yet the period has been largely overlooked in the rich field of literature and law. Helping to fill this gap, The Legal Epic is the first book to situate the great poet and polemicist John Milton at the center of late seventeenth-century legal history.

Alison A. Chapman argues that Milton’s Paradise Lost sits at the apex of the early modern period’s long fascination with law and judicial processes. Milton’s world saw law and religion as linked disciplines and thought therefore that in different ways, both law and religion should reflect the will of God. Throughout Paradise Lost, Milton invites his readers to judge actions using not only reason and conscience but also core principles of early modern jurisprudence. Law thus informs Milton’s attempt to “justify the ways of God to men” and points readers toward the types of legal justice that should prevail on earth.

Adding to the growing interest in the cultural history of law, The Legal Epic shows that England’s preeminent epic poem is also a sustained reflection on the role law plays in human society.
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Milton Among Spaniards
Angelica Duran
University of Delaware Press, 2011
Firmly grounded in literary studies but drawing on religious studies, translation studies, drama, and visual art, Milton among Spaniards is the first book-length exploration of the afterlife of John Milton in Spanish culture, illuminating underexamined Anglo-Hispanic cultural relations. This study calls attention to a series of powerful engagements by Spaniards with Milton’s works and legend, following a general chronology from the eighteenth to the early twenty-first century, tracing the overall story of Milton’s presence from indices of prohibited works during the Inquisition, through the many Spanish translations of Paradise Lost, to the author’s depiction on stage in the nineteenth-century play Milton, and finally to the representation of Paradise Lost by Spanish visual artists.

Published by University of Delaware Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
 
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Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost
William Poole
Harvard University Press, 2017

Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost tells the story of John Milton's life as England’s self-elected national poet and explains how the single greatest poem of the English language came to be written.

In early 1642 Milton—an obscure private schoolmaster—promised English readers a work of literature so great that “they should not willingly let it die.” Twenty-five years later, toward the end of 1667, the work he had pledged appeared in print: the epic poem Paradise Lost. In the interim, however, the poet had gone totally blind and had also become a controversial public figure—a man who had argued for the abolition of bishops, freedom of the press, the right to divorce, and the prerogative of a nation to depose and put to death an unsatisfactory ruler. These views had rendered him an outcast.

William Poole devotes particular attention to Milton’s personal situation: his reading and education, his ambitions and anxieties, and the way he presented himself to the world. Although always a poet first, Milton was also a theologian and civil servant, vocations that informed the composition of his masterpiece. At the emotional center of this narrative is the astounding fact that Milton lost his sight in 1652. How did a blind man compose this staggeringly complex, intensely visual work? Poole opens up the epic worlds and sweeping vistas of Milton’s masterpiece to modern readers, first by exploring Milton’s life and intellectual preoccupations and then by explaining the poem itself—its structure, content, and meaning.

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Milton's Epic Voice
The Narrator in Paradise Lost
Anne Ferry
University of Chicago Press, 1983
Although Paradise Lost is one of the greatest poems in the English language, it is also among the most difficult and intimidating, especially to unsophisticated readers. One of the most accessible critical studies of Paradise Lost—and one frequently recommended by those teaching Milton—is Anne Ferry's Milton's Epic Voice.
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Milton's Modernities
Poetry, Philosophy, and History from the Seventeenth Century to the Present
Edited by Feisal G. Mohamed and Patrick Fadely
Northwestern University Press, 2017
The phrase “early modern” challenges readers and scholars to explore ways in which that period expands and refines contemporary views of the modern. The original essays in  Milton’s Modernities undertake such exploration in the context of the work of  John Milton, a poet whose prodigious energies simultaneously point to the past and future.
 
Bristling with insights on Milton’s major works, Milton’s Modernities offers fresh perspectives on the thinkers central to our theorizations of modernity: from Lucretius and Spinoza, Hegel and Kant, to Benjamin and Deleuze. At the volume's core is an embrace of the possibilities unleashed by current trends in philosophy, variously styled as the return to ethics, or metaphysics, or religion. These make all the more visible Milton’s dialogues with later modernity, dialogues that promise to generate much critical discussion in early modern studies and beyond.
 
Such approaches necessarily challenge many prevailing assumptions that have guided recent Milton criticism—assumptions about context and periodization, for instance. In this way, Milton’s Modernities powerfully broadens the historical archive beyond the materiality of events and things, incorporating as well intellectual currents, hybrids, and insights.
 
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New Science, New World
Denise Albanese
Duke University Press, 1996
In New Science, New World Denise Albanese examines the discursive interconnections between two practices that emerged in the seventeenth century—modern science and colonialism. Drawing on the discourse analysis of Foucault, the ideology-critique of Marxist cultural studies, and de Certeau’s assertion that the modern world produces itself through alterity, she argues that the beginnings of colonialism are intertwined in complex fashion with the ways in which the literary became the exotic “other” and undervalued opposite of the scientific.
Albanese reads the inaugurators of the scientific revolution against the canonical authors of early modern literature, discussing Galileo’s Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems and Bacon’s New Atlantis as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She examines how the newness or “novelty” of investigating nature is expressed through representations of the New World, including the native, the feminine, the body, and the heavens. “New” is therefore shown to be a double sign, referring both to the excitement associated with a knowledge oriented away from past practices, and to the oppression and domination typical of the colonialist enterprise. Exploring the connections between the New World and the New Science, and the simultaneously emerging patterns of thought and forms of writing characteristic of modernity, Albanese insists that science is at its inception a form of power-knowledge, and that the modern and postmodern division of “Two Cultures,” the literary and the scientific, has its antecedents in the early modern world.
New Science, New World makes an important contribution to feminist, new historicist, and cultural materialist debates about the extent to which the culture of seventeenth-century England is proto-modern. It will offer scholars and students from a wide range of fields a new critical model for historical practice.
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Paradise Lost
A Primer
Michael Cavanagh
Catholic University of America Press, 2020
A record of a teacher’s lifelong love affair with the beauty, wit, and profundity of Paradise Lost, celebrating John Milton’s un-doctrinal, complex, and therefore deeply satisfying perception of the human condition. After surveying Milton’s recurrent struggle as a reconciler of conflicting ideals, this Primer undertakes a book-by-book reading of Paradise Lost, reviewing key features of Milton’s “various style,” and why we treasure that style. Cavanagh constantly revisits Milton the singer and maker, and the artistic problems he faced in writing this almost impossible poem. This book is emphatically for first-time readers of Milton, with little or no prior exposure, but with ambition to encounter challenging poetry. These are readers who tell you they “have always been meaning to read Paradise Lost,” who seek to enjoy the epic without being overwhelmed by its daunting learning and expansive frame of reference. Avoiding the narrowly specialized focus of most Milton scholarship, Cavanagh deals forthrightly with issues that recur across generations of readers, gathering selected voices—from scholars and poets alike—from 1674 through the present. Lively and jargon-free, this Primer makes Paradise Lost accessible and fresh, offering a credible beginning to what is a great intellectual and aesthetic adventure.
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The Poetry of John Milton
Gordon Teskey
Harvard University Press, 2015

John Milton is regarded as the greatest English poet after Shakespeare. Yet for sublimity and philosophical grandeur, Milton stands almost alone in world literature. His peers are Homer, Virgil, Dante, Wordsworth, and Goethe: poets who achieve a total ethical and spiritual vision of the world. In this panoramic interpretation, the distinguished Milton scholar Gordon Teskey shows how the poet’s changing commitments are subordinated to an aesthetic that joins beauty to truth and value to ethics. The art of poetry is rediscovered by Milton as a way of thinking in the world as it is, and for the world as it can be.

Milton’s early poems include the heroic Nativity Ode; the seductive paired poems “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”; the mythological pageant Comus, with its comically diabolical enchanter and its serious debate on the human use of nature; and “Lycidas,” perhaps the greatest short poem in English and a prophecy of vast human displacements in the modern world. Teskey follows Milton’s creative development in three phases, from the idealistic transcendence of the poems written in his twenties to the political engagement of the gritty, hard-hitting poems of his middle years. The third phase is that of “transcendental engagement,” in the heaven-storming epic Paradise Lost, and the great works that followed it: the intense intellectual debate Paradise Regained, and the tragedy Samson Agonistes.

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Remembering and Repeating
On Milton's Theology and Poetics
Regina M. Schwartz
University of Chicago Press, 1993
In this graceful and compelling book, Regina Schwartz presents a powerful reading of Paradise Lost by tracing the structure of the poem to the pattern of "repeated beginnings" found in the Bible. In both works, the world order is constantly threatened by chaos. By drawing on both the Bible and the more contemporary works of, among others, Freud, Lacan, Ricoeur, Said, and Derrida, Schwartz argues that chaos does not simply threaten order, but rather, chaos inheres in order.

"A brilliant study that quietly but powerfully recharacterizes many of the contexts of discussion in Milton criticism. Particularly noteworthy is Schwartz's ability to introduce advanced theoretical perspectives without ever taking the focus of attention away from the dynamics and problematics of Milton's poem."—Stanley Fish



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Reviving Liberty
Radical Christian Humanism in Milton’s Great Poems
Joan S. Bennett
Harvard University Press, 1989

Milton’s Great Poems—Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes—are here examined in the light of his lifelong commitment to the English revolutionary cause. The poems, Joan Bennett shows, reflect the issues Milton had dealt with in theological and public policy debate, foreign diplomacy, and propaganda; moreover, they work innovatively with these issues, reaching in epic and tragedy answers that his pamphlets and tracts of the past twenty years had only partially achieved. The central issue is the nature and possibility of human freedom, or “Christian liberty.” Related questions are the nature of human rationality, the meaning of law, of history, of individuality, of society, and—everywhere—the problem of evil.

The book offers a revisionist position in the history of ideas, arguing that Renaissance Christian humanism in England descended not from Tudor to Stuart Anglicanism but from Tudor Anglicanism to revolutionary Puritanism. Close readings are offered of texts by Richard Hooker, Milton, and a range of writers before and during the revolutionary period. Not only theological and political positions but also political actions taken by the authors are compared. Milton's poems are studied in the light of these analyses.

The concept of “radical Christian humanism” moves current Milton criticism beyond the competing conceptions of Milton as the poet of democratic liberalism and the prophet of revolutionary absolutism. Milton's radical Christian humanism was built upon pre-modern conceptions and experiences of reason that are not alien to our time. It stemmed from, and resulted in, a religious commitment to political process which his poems embody and illuminate.

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The Ruins of Allegory
Paradise Lost and the Metamorphosis of Epic Convention
Catherine Gimelli Martin
Duke University Press, 1998
In this reexamination of the allegorical dimensions of Paradise Lost, Catherine Martin presents Milton’s poem as a prophecy foretelling the end of one culture and its replacement by another. She argues that rather than merely extending the allegorical tradition as defined by Augustine, Dante, and Spenser, Milton has written a meta-allegory that stages a confrontation with an allegorical formalism that is either dead or no longer philosophically viable. By both critiquing and recasting the traditional form, Milton describes the transition to a new epoch that promises the possibility of human redemption in history.
Martin shows how Paradise Lost, written at the threshold of the enormous imaginative shift that accompanied the Protestant, scientific, and political revolutions of the seventeenth century, conforms to a prophetic baroque model of allegory similar to that outlined by Walter Benjamin. As she demonstrates, Milton’s experimentation with baroque forms radically reformulates classical epic, medieval romance, and Spenserian allegory to allow for both a naturalistic, empirically responsible understanding of the universe and for an infinite and incomprehensible God. In this way, the resulting poetic world of Paradise Lost is like Milton’s God, an allegorical “ruin” in which the divine is preserved but at the price of a loss of certainty. Also, as Martin suggests, the poem affirmatively anticipates modernity by placing the chief hope of human progress in the fully self-authored subject.
Maintaining a dialogue with a critical tradition that extends from Johnson and Coleridge to the best contemporary Milton scholarship, Martin sets Paradise Lost in both the early modern and the postmodern worlds. Ruins of Allegory will greatly interest all Milton scholars, as well as students of literary criticism and early modern studies.
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Selected Prose
New and Revised Edition
John Milton, Edited by C. A. Patrides
University of Missouri Press, 1986

Although John Milton is best known for his poems such as Paradise Lost, his prose works, including Areopagitica, The Tenure of Kings, and The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, are important in their own right. In this selection of Milton’s prose, C.A. Patrides presents the best possible texts of complete works in a format designed to enable students to understand Milton the thinker as well as to judge for themselves the achievements of Milton the artist in prose.

First published in 1974, C.A. Patrides ‘s edition of Milton’s prose has proved invaluable to students and scholars of Renaissance literature because it includes mostly the complete texts of Milton’s prose works. Now, in this new and updated edition, Patrides has revised his introduction and his bibliography to reflect advances in Milton scholarship in the past ten years. In addition, the selections have been expanded to include passages from Milton’s theological treatise De doctrina Christiana.

For sale only in the USA and Philippines.

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Sublimity and Skepticism in Montaigne and Milton
David L. Sedley
University of Michigan Press, 2005
Traditional approaches to understanding sublimity and skepticism have often asserted the primacy and importance of one concept over the other. However, in Sublimity and Skepticism in Montaigne and Milton, David L. Sedley argues that literary and philosophical notions of skepticism and sublimity simultaneously developed and influenced one another. By exposing the twin origins of skepticism and sublimity, Sedley contributes to ongoing discussions of the origins of modernity and genealogies of modern habits of criticism.

Sedley uses the juxtaposition of Montaigne and Milton to argue that two seminal early modern phenomena, the rise of the sublime as an aesthetic category and the emergence of skepticism as a philosophical problem, are interrelated. The comparison of these two Renaissance writers highlights the traditions that have canonized them and also complicates the canonical views: Sedley's perspective reveals how Montaigne cultivated his famous skepticism in order to produce sublimity, while Milton forged his renowned sublimity through his encounter with skepticism. Sedley's first argument is that sublimity motivated skepticism: the sense that a force existed outside the aesthetic categories conventional in the Renaissance drove authors into a skeptical frame of mind. His second argument is that skepticism created sublimity: the skeptical mind-set offered alternative resources of aesthetic power and enabled authors to fashion a sublime style. These claims revise standard views of skepticism and sublimity, suggesting a mandate for an enriched aesthetics behind late-Renaissance loss of belief and exposing the Renaissance impulse behind modern notions of sublimity.

"Sedley's work takes seriously our ongoing engagement with doubt. It is a brisk and brilliant guide to the disparate pathways through which early modern skepticism made its way to the sublime."
-Eileen Reeves, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

"Sublimity and Skepticism in Montaigne and Milton is a powerful piece of revisionist intellectual history. By demonstrating the close links between the rise of skepticism and the power of the sublime, Sedley offers a welcome antidote to the heavily ideological tenor of much recent cultural studies. With clarity and elegance Sedley shows that two of the greatest writers of the late Renaissance, Montaigne and Milton, are haunted by a crisis of authority, which is accompanied by the irruption of the sublime, by an inchoate sense of being overwhelmed by the phenomenal world. Through deft and intelligent readings Sedley shows how key moments in the works of these two great authors are structured by the intersection of the sublime and the skeptical. This book should be of great interest to literary scholars, aestheticians, and intellectual historians working in several languages. It is a very fine piece of work."
-Tim Hampton, Professor of French, UC Berkeley

"A refreshingly modern and elegant understanding of Montaigne and Milton as inaugurating the sublime possibilities of the fragmentary and incomprehensible. Sedley reinserts these writers into a history of the transformation of admiration into awe, and makes us revisit the beginnings and the justifications of our own esthetics of the sublime."
-Ullrich Langer, Professor of French and Italian, University of Wisconsin
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Surprised by Sin
The Reader in Paradise Lost, Second Edition with a New Preface
Stanley Fish
Harvard University Press, 1998

In 1967 the world of Milton studies was divided into two armed camps: one proclaiming (in the tradition of Blake and Shelley) that Milton was of the devil's party with or without knowing it, the other proclaiming (in the tradition of Addison and C. S. Lewis) that the poet's sympathies are obviously with God and the angels loyal to him.

The achievement of Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin was to reconcile the two camps by subsuming their claims in a single overarching thesis: Paradise Lost is a poem about how its readers came to be the way they are--that is, fallen--and the poem's lesson is proven on a reader's impulse every time he or she finds a devilish action attractive or a godly action dismaying.

Fish's argument reshaped the face of Milton studies; thirty years later the issues raised in Surprised by Sin continue to set the agenda and drive debate.

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Towards Reading Freud
Self-Creation in Milton, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Sigmund Freud
Mark Edmundson
University of Chicago Press, 2007
When most critics were using Freudian theories to study literature, Mark Edmundson read Freud’s writings as literature alongside the works of poets grappling with the heady issues of desire, narcissism, and grief. Towards Reading Freud weighs the psychoanalyst’s therapeutic directives against his more visionary impulses in a magisterial comparative study of such writers as Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Keats. Cross-fertilizing psychological doctrine with the literary canon, this richly informed volume forges a new understanding of Freud’s writings on the self.
 
“Marvelous. . . . Edmundson’s book offers an extraordinary challenge both to practicing analysts and to a scholarly community which all too uncomplainingly inhabits and reinforces the Freudian paradigm of interpretation. Edmundson reinvents an adventurous and dissident Freud as an antidote to . . . weary psychoanalytic commonplaces.”—Malcolm Bowie, Raritan
 
“This book takes a distinguished place in the ongoing effort to recontextualize Freud by stressing the literary, rather than the scientific roots and character of his theory.”—Virginia Quarterly Review
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Tracing Paradise
Two Years in Harmony with John Milton
Dawn Potter
University of Massachusetts Press, 2009
One winter morning, poet Dawn Potter sat down at her desk in Harmony, Maine, and began copying out the opening lines of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Her intent was to spend half an hour with a poem she had never liked, her goal to transcribe a page or two. Maybe she would begin to appreciate the poet's art, though she had no real expectations that the exercise would change her mind about the poem. Yet what began as a whim turned rapidly into an obsession, and soon Potter was immersed in a strange and unexpected project: she found herself copying out every single word of Milton's immense, convoluted epic.

Tracing Paradise: Two Years in Harmony with John Milton is her memoir of that long task. Over the course of twelve chapters, Potter explores her very personal response to Milton and Paradise Lost, tracing the surprising intersections between a seventeenth-century biblical epic and the routine joys and tragedies of domestic life in contemporary rural Maine. Curious, opinionated, and eager, she engages with the canon on mutable, individual terms. Though she writes perceptively about the details and techniques of Milton's art, always her reactions are linked to her present-tense experiences as a poet, small-time farmer, family member, and citizen of a poor and beleaguered north-country town.

A skilled and entertaining writer, Potter is also a wide-ranging and sophisticated reader. Yet her memoir is not a scholarly treatise: her enthusiasms and misgivings about both Milton and Paradise Lost ebb and flow with the days. Tracing Paradise reminds us that close engagement with another artist's task may itself be a form of creation. Above all, Potter's memoir celebrates one reader's difficult yet transformative love affair with Milton's glorious, irritating, inscrutable masterpiece.
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Trade and Romance
Michael Murrin
University of Chicago Press, 2013
In Trade and Romance, Michael Murrin examines the complex relations between the expansion of trade in Asia and the production of heroic romance in Europe from the second half of the thirteenth century through the late seventeenth century. He shows how these tales of romance, ostensibly meant for the aristocracy, were important to the growing mercantile class as a way to gauge their own experiences in traveling to and trading in these exotic locales. Murrin also looks at the role that growing knowledge of geography played in the writing of the creative literature of the period, tracking how accurate, or inaccurate, these writers were in depicting far-flung destinations, from Iran and the Caspian Sea all the way to the Pacific.
           
With reference to an impressive range of major works in several languages—including the works of Marco Polo, Geoffrey Chaucer, Matteo Maria Boiardo, Luís de Camões, Fernão Mendes Pinto, Edmund Spenser, John Milton, and more—Murrin tracks numerous accounts by traders and merchants through the literature, first on the Silk Road, beginning in the mid-thirteenth century; then on the water route to India, Japan, and China via the Cape of Good Hope; and, finally, the overland route through Siberia to Beijing. All of these routes, originally used to exchange commodities, quickly became paths to knowledge as well, enabling information to pass, if sometimes vaguely and intermittently, between Europe and the Far East. These new tales of distant shores fired the imagination of Europe and made their way, with surprising accuracy, as Murrin shows, into the poetry of the period.

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War of Titans
Blake’s Critique of Milton and the Politics of Religion
Jackie DiSalvo
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983

In a dramatically original analysis, Jackie DiSalvo explores Blake’s reworking of Genesis and Paradise Lost in his prophetic poem The Four Zoas, creating a compelling new reading of both Milton and Blake. With informed argument and provocative insights, DiSalvo shows how Blake’s view of history prefigures the revaluation of our own myths of origin prompted by new political, psychological, and feminist perspectives.

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