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Theological Milton

Deity, Discourse, and Heresy in the Miltonic Canon

By Michael Lieb

Publication Year: 2006

In lively, forceful, and at times witty language, Michael Lieb has written an illuminating study of the figure of God as a literary character in the writings of John Milton. Milton’s God has always been a provocative and controversial figure, and Lieb offers a fresh way to look at the relationship between the language of theology and the language of poetry in Milton’s works. He draws into the discussion previous authors on the subject—Patrides, Hunter, Kelley, Empson, Danielson, Rumrich, and others—resulting in a dynamic debate about Milton’s multifarious God. By stressing God’s multivalent qualities, Theological Milton offers an innovative perspective on the darker side of the divinity. Lieb allows us to see a Miltonic God of hate as well as a God of love, a God who is a creator as well as a destroyer. Lieb directly confronts the more troubling faces of God in a manner richly informed by Milton’s own theology. Against the theoretical framework for the idea of addressing God as a distinctly literary figure, Lieb presents Milton in the historical milieu prior to and contemporaneous with his works. More cogently than others, Lieb clarifies Milton’s theology of the godhead and the various heresies, such as Socinianism and Arianism, that informed the religious controversies of the seventeenth century. He does so in a manner that exemplifies how literature and theology are inextricably intertwined.

Published by: Duquesne University Press


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Title Page

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am genuinely indebted to both the individuals and the institutions that helped to make this work possible. These include Albert C. Labriola and David Loewenstein, to whom I am deeply grateful for their astute and sensitive readings of my manuscript. To the guiding hands of Susan Wadsworth-Booth ...


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p. xi

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pp. 1-12

I suppose the moral here is that one can have a deep knowledge of both theological discourse and poetic discourse and still fail to see how the one may overlap with the other. I wish to explore both forms of discourse, to understand how one shades into the next, and, in the process, reestablish the relationship between each. Such an enterprise is of necessity made more complex by the ...

Part I: The Discourse of Theology

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ONE. Doctrinal and Discursive Contexts

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pp. 15-49

As we know from past experience, that method has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.1 Rather than approaching the treatise simply (and I might add, reductively) as a gloss, I wish to address the treatise on its own terms to see how its portrayal of God functions and to determine how that portrayal is to be understood. To my knowledge, an analysis of this sort has never ...

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TWO. The Ontological Imperative

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pp. 51-86

The chapter is essentially divisible into three sections: (1) concerning the existence of God; (2) concerning the knowledge of God; and (3) concerning the names and attributes of God. One might suggest that the chapter moves from the ontological to the epistemological to the phenomenological modes by means of which God is manifested ...

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THREE. The Signatures of Deity

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pp. 87-124

With an awareness of the shortcomings to which any systematic theology is liable, the chapter titled “De Deo” structures its argument according to what I have called the ontological, epistemological, and phenomenological modes of discourse. These involve the existence of God, the knowledge of God, and the names and attributes of God. Having addressed the ontological ...

Part II: The Poetics of Deity

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FOUR. The Theopathetic Deity

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pp. 127-162

That is, in an understanding of the delineation of God as a character in his own poem, one appreciates the correspondences that can be drawn between the work of the poet and the work of the exegete. At the same time, the poetic representation of God must be understood on its own terms, which may or may not ...

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FIVE. The Odium Dei

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pp. 163-183

The most crucial theme, Shawcross asserts, is love. “We see it in the providence of God which the poem asserts, in the love of the Son for God the Father and thus for man, and in the realization of Adam in Book 12, which thus justifies God’s ways. By contrast, we see the hate of Satan and its generation of revolt, revenge, and deceit. Love leads to eternal life; hate, ...

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SIX. “Our Living Dread”

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pp. 184-210

... through which one acquires an increasingly more enlightened understanding of how God’s treatment of every man reflects his treatment of Samson. As a result of this understanding, one gains a freer and more rational conception of the nature of God. The movement toward God is the movement toward ...

Part III: The Heresies of Godhead

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SEVEN. The Socinian Imperative

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pp. 213-260

In what appears to be an ongoing tendency in modern criticism, scholars are ever more inclined to align Milton with the various heresies that emerged with renewed vigor during the revolutionary decades of the seventeenth century. Most recently, the essays in Stephen B. Dobranski and John Rumrich’s collection ...

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EIGHT. Arianism and Godhead

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pp. 261-278

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the debate over Milton’s beliefs regarding the nature of the Trinity is as lively now as it has been for well over two centuries. In his essay on Milton’s putative Arianism, John P. Rumrich argues that this debate goes back at least as far as Jonathan Richardson’s defense ...


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pp. 279-338


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pp. 339-348

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705149
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703749
Print-ISBN-10: 0820703745

Page Count: 359
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 794700844
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Theological Milton

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Milton, John, -- 1608-1674 -- Religion
  • Christianity and literature -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Christian literature, English -- History and criticism
  • Christian heresies -- History -- Modern period, 1500-.
  • Christian heresies in literature.
  • Theology in literature.
  • Heresy in literature.
  • Thomas, R. S. ǂq (Ronald Stuart), ǂd 1913-2000 ǂx Religion.
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