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The Development of Milton's Thought

Law, Government, and Religion

By John T. Shawcross

Publication Year: 2008

With this pioneering book, John T. Shawcross debunks a common assumption about what we see in Milton’s work: that Milton’s views remained unchanged over time. Shawcross systematically analyzes this belief in light of Milton’s vocation, social life, politics, and religion, and presents us with a Milton who, indeed, changes his mind.

The one constant in Milton’s writing and thought is that of faith in God, but the theology that underlies this unchanging faith—such as his views on the Trinity and God’s providence—develops through reflection and adverse experience, often yielding more defined ideas. Shawcross also traces the development of Milton’s concepts about political thought, attitudes toward the church, financial matters, the “people,” and gender, some of which result in complicated (and often unresolved) issues.

Shawcross’s presentation of a Milton whose thought does indeed develop and change—albeit with an unbending belief that faith and God supervene—is an essential contribution to Milton scholarship.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Contents

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Preface

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pp. vii-x

Criticism has frequently viewed John Milton as having a mind that never changed, not over time, not according to any subject, not for any reason. Unrealistic as that view is, it quite often underlies the reading of both his poetry and his...

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One. Milton and Constancy of Thought

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pp. 1-24

Critical attitudes have long held that John Milton was unwaveringly aware of his thinking about his career and vocation, social life, government and politics, and religion in both doctrine and discipline. It has been alleged that his thinking...

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Two. Milton and Legal Matters

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pp. 25-48

For the most part any legalities in reference to Milton’s biography have been relegated to chancery concerns involving loans, transference of property, and default by some of those failing to comply with required actions. Another aspect...

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Three. Milton the Republican

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pp. 49-62

A major topic within Milton scholarship in recent years — indeed within most literary discussion and of such great concern in our everyday life — has been the political world. Much of the uneducated name-calling in the popular media has shown ignorance of what words like “conservative...

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Four. Milton, the Church, and Theology

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pp. 63-81

Interrelated, yet separate, for all people are the external world and the internal mind. Much that we do or that occurs for us in life or that concerns us is influenced by that internal mind — our knowledge, our thoughts, our emotions...

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Five. Theological Concerns, Especially the Trinity

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pp. 82-110

In the epistle prefacing De doctrina Christiana, Milton indicates that he realized he could “not depend upon the belief or judgment of others in religious questions” and that “the only authority . . . was God’s self-revelation, and accordingly...

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Six. Theological Concerns, the Son, and the Divine Presence

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pp. 111-134

The most notorious theological concern that has flooded Milton scholarship is the relationship of the Son to the Father, the Son as God, leading to the Arian label for his thought and, in counter-distinction, to the positing ...

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Seven. Conceptual Reflections in Milton’s Poetry and Prose

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pp. 135-158

For the reader and scholar of literature the words and images employed to communicate the meanings, experience, creation, and enjoyment of that literature are extremely important — they are the very elements constituting any reading or analysis. I have in previous chapters paid...

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Eight. The Three Major Poems

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pp. 159-170

The three major poems have entered our discussion often in the previous chapters. In relation to the subject of Milton’s unchanging or changed mind the question of the dates of their composition must be considered. We can and should read a text as it is received, but we also should acknowledge...

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Nine. Unchanging Belief and the Changed Mind

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pp. 171-196

The preceding chapters have demonstrated that a blanket application of the phrase “Milton’s unchanging mind” is simply wrong. Not only did the externalities of life involving thought and attitude that Milton experienced...

Notes

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pp. 197-255

Works Cited

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pp. 256-274

Index

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pp. 275- 283


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705101
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704111

Page Count: 293
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies
Series Editor Byline: Albert C. Labriola

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Religion.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Knowledge and learning.
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