In this Book

Shifting Contexts
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Samson Agonistes is the climax and completion of Milton’s poetic vision. As such, it has become the work at which the critical controversies in Milton studies converge and from which new critical perspectives on Milton’s poems emerge. In 1969, John Carey heralded the birth of new critical perspectives when he contended that Milton’s dramatic poem "is not a drama of inner regeneration," a view that flies in the face of traditional interpretation, which tends to perceive Samson as a hero of regeneration. Carey also focused on Samson’s “tragic sulk” and the “theatre-demolition” at the feast of Dagon. Following Carey’s lead, other critics, notably Irene Samuel, began to question the various elements, large and small, of the traditional interpretation of Milton’s dramatic poem. Milton’s religious and political thinking, his use of prosody and verse, his outlook on tragedy, and the like were all reexamined. Since this revisionist view of Samson Agonistes began to develop, it has unfolded with a decisiveness and momentum that now challenge the traditional view, if not overthrow it. The dramatic poem’s ambiguities highlight Milton’s innovative adaptation of the biblical narrative concerning Samson, undermine the traditional ideas of Samson’s election by God and his redemption, question the typological alignment of the Hebraic and Christian scriptures whereby Samson traditionally is perceived as a “hero of faith” who prefigures the mission and ministry of Jesus, and draw attention to Milton's use of Arminianism, Calvinism, and other theological views. This book contends that there are several Samsons in the dramatic poem and multiple contexts and various traditions that bring to light Milton’s unique rendition of a kaleidoscopic protagonist. To achieve its purposes, this book forges and deploys a new critical vocabulary of paramount importance not only to Miltonists but to critical theorists generally.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright Page
  2. pp. i-vi
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-vii
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  1. Illustrations
  2. pp. viii-x
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  1. Preface
  2. pp. xi-xxxii
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  1. One Reinterpreting Samson Agonistes
  2. pp. 1-66
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  1. Two Justifying Samson’s Ways
  2. pp. 67-100
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  1. Three “Glorious for a While”
  2. pp. 101-144
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  1. Four Several Texts in One
  2. pp. 145-192
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  1. Five Thought Colliding with Thought
  2. pp. 193-242
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  1. Six From Political Allegory to an Allegory of Readings
  2. pp. 243-286
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 287-344
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 345-354
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