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.
Coming of Age as a Poet
Helen Hennessy Vendler Harvard University Press, 2003 Library of Congress PR502.V46 2003 | Dewey Decimal 820.9
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.
Table of Contents:
1. John Milton--The Elements of Happiness 2. John Keats--Perfecting the Sonnet 3. T. S. Eliot--Inventing Prufrock 4. Sylvia Plath--Reconstructing the Colossus
Notes Credits Index
Reviews of this book: In Coming of Age as a Poet, Vendler...chooses one breakthrough poem by each of four poets--Milton, Keats, Eliot, and Plath. Through close readings of their structure, imagery, and scansion, she shows how these poems mark each poet's mastery of a unique voice...The clarity and expert analysis of all four poems could engage even a casual reader, while the breadth of scholarship and unique interpretations will appeal to more experienced poetry readers. Vendler's work is highly recommended. --Vivian Reed, Library Journal
Reviews of this book: Where does a poet's voice come from and of what is it forged? There's a question to bring out bootless reductionism if ever there was one, yet Helen Vendler explores it magnificently in its complexity and nuance in Coming of Age as a Poet. --Katherine A. Powers, Boston Sunday Globe
Reviews of this book: Reading a Vendler essay is like coming home to the cave; like entering the mind of the poet. In Coming of Age as a Poet, a collection of four essays, Vendler looks at the point in the lives of four poets...when they came into their own maturity as poets, found their discourses, the styles and the voices that would make them immortal...Vendler shows them on their vulnerable ascents to greatness. --Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: A clear but subtle account of the struggles, the rites of passage, undergone by four poets, while still in their 20s, negotiating with tradition in order to find their style and attain their majority--to become, in fact, major poets...Each chapter becomes a short story, a thrillingly compressed account of the vicissitudes of genius...It is a pleasure to be guided by [Vendler] into the poet's workshop--she is so good at making poetry matter, at opening up the interest of passages one had dully taken for granted. --Philip Horne, Guardian
Reviews of this book: Though modest in size, Coming of Age contains numerous original insights into the creative process, especially into that formative period in which a poet finds his or her technique, style, and voice. --D. D. Kummings, Choice
Reviews of this book: Helen Vendler begins her brief study with a persuasive and delightful piece on the young Milton...[She] is brilliant on Keat's comparatively slow but sure practicing on the Petrarchan model...She is equally good, by contrast, on the gradual evolution of Eliot's 'The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock'...[This book is] full of perceptions and rewards that send one scurrying back to the text. --John Bayley, New York Review of Books
Reviews of this book: [Vendler's] attention to the psychological and aesthetic unraveling of the poet's calling turns the microscopic into the majestic. --Jacques Khalip, Boston Review
Reviews of this book: Using Milton, Keats, Eliot and Path as her case studies, Ms. Vendler 'consider[s] the work a young poet has to have done before writing his or her first "perfect poem"--the poem which first wholly succeeds in embodying a coherent personal style.' This is a bold claim and a challenging book, but Ms. Vendler succeeds brilliantly in keeping us hooked. By the end we are better readers. --Tom Mayo, Dallas Morning News
Reviews of this book: [Vendler] has offered up a brief but profound inspiration to any reader willing to take the time to move slowly, with curiosity and attention, through her investigation of four cases of great poetry. --Len Edgerly, Bloomsbury Review
Reviews of this book: As to books about poetry, you could hardly do better than Coming of Age as a Poet by superb U.S. critic Helen Vendler, in which she illuminates the first perfect poems by John Milton, John Keats, T. S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath. If in doubt about your critical criteria, read Vendler. --Barry Hill, The Weekend Australian
The argument of Delirious Milton 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
William Poole recounts Milton's life as England’s self-elected national poet and explains how the greatest poem of the English language came to be written. How did a blind man compose this staggeringly complex, intensely visual work? Poole explores how Milton’s life and preoccupations inform the poem itself—its structure, content, and meaning.
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.
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.
New Science, New World
Denise Albanese Duke University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PR438.S35A43 1996 | Dewey Decimal 820.9356
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.
Paradise Lost: A Primer
Michael Cavanagh Catholic University of America Press, 2020 Library of Congress PR3562.C38 2020 | Dewey Decimal 821.4
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.
The Poetry of John Milton
Gordon Teskey Harvard University Press, 2015 Library of Congress PR3553.T45 2015 | Dewey Decimal 821.4
For sublimity and philosophical grandeur Milton stands almost alone in world literature. His peers are Homer, Virgil, Dante, Wordsworth, and Goethe. Gordon Teskey shows how Milton’s aesthetic joins beauty to truth and value to ethics and how he rediscovers the art of poetry as a way of thinking in the world as it is, and for the world as it can be.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Trade and Romance
Michael Murrin University of Chicago Press, 2013 Library of Congress PN682.O75M87 2013 | Dewey Decimal 809.9332
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.
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.