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Visionary Milton

Essays on Prophecy and Violence

Edited by Peter E. Medine, John T. Shawcross, and David V. Urban

Publication Year: 2010

With global terrorism a seemingly daily threat, the twenty-first century is permeated with violence and in search of some way to better understand the world and its different religions and politics. In recent decades, the literary world has shifted to a similar focus, producing new works and reexamining old ones to aid in forming a vision relevant to such a violent world. In Visionary Milton: Essays on Prophecy and Violence, distinguished Milton scholars are brought together in dialogue to discuss John Milton’s focus on prophecy and violence in his work and how these themes add to an understanding of Milton as a visionary.

The collection begins with a fresh analysis of the visionary mode of narrative in the early modern period as seen in both biblical and imaginative literature and sets the groundwork for an examination of Milton’s poetry, prose, and biography. The themes of prophecy and violence develop throughout these essays as an overall context in Milton’s life, as an important principle in such works as Paradise Regained, and as a mode for an extended analysis of Restoration politics as they figure in Milton’s poetry.

Visionary Milton extends the literary discussion of Milton’s work into a larger geopolitical area. The collection is important not only for those interested in Milton, but also for historians, political scientists, and theologians.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

The editors wish to thank Calvin College for its support and the University of Arizona for its generous subvention of publication costs. The editors wish to pay tribute to the late Professor Albert C. Labriola, without whose early support and guidance this volume...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xxvi

The visionary mode is by nature prophetic. It envisions not only the future but also the past and the present. The scope is therefore capacious and can accommodate itself to virtually all subjects and all literary genres. The mode is interpretive as well; it revises and re-envisions what is established, received, and expected. The process is twofold. Typically iconoclastic, the visionary author...

Part I: Milton’s Visionary Mode: Prophecy and Violence

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1: Milton and the Visionary Mode: The Early Poems

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pp. 3-22

Writing “Of the Original and right use of Poetry: with the manner of its Corruption by later Poets,” Thomas Jackson remarked upon authors who were any way disposed by nature to the Faculty, were inspired with lively and sublimate affections, apt to vent themselves in such Poetical Phrases and resemblances, as we cannot reach unto, unless we raise our invention by Art and imitation, and stir up Admiration...

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2: Milton and the Culture Wars

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pp. 23-44

My title may seem anachronistic, yet I suggest that the intellectual conflicts of Milton’s era merit the designation “culture wars” as much as or more than the controversies to which we now attach that label. A civil war, an established church dismantled, a king executed, and a monarchy replaced by a republic could only happen as a result of profound ideological and cultural conflicts. Moreover...

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3: Red Milton: Abraham Polonsky and You Are There (January 30, 1955)

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pp. 45-62

In “Critique of Violence” (1921), Walter Benjamin makes a careful distinction between “law-preserving” violence and divine violence. The first, law-preserving violence, works to establish the sovereignty of the state, but the second threatens to overturn the very foundations on which the state is built.1 Divine violence, outside the normative and legal, is capable of...

Part II

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4: How Hobbes Works

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pp. 65-88

In Milton and the Culture of Violence (1994) and in many other important writings, Michael Lieb has been concerned to show us what he sometimes calls the “darker, more unsettling side of Milton’s personality” and Milton’s God.1 While poems like Lycidas and “At a Solemn Music” end in visions of a universal harmony of undifferentiated voices free of discord and jarring...

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5: God’s “Red Right Hand” Violence and Pain in Paradise Lost

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pp. 89-108

Among the many “firsts” in Paradise Lost, pain stands out by happening for the first time twice. Both first experiences belong to Satan, but as many readers have noticed, the poem ascribes the new sensation to different moments. Chronologically, the first time Satan experiences pain is when Sin bursts from his head while he conspires with the seraphim “against...

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6: A World with a Tomorrow: Paradise Regain’d and Its Hermeneutic of Discovery

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pp. 109-136

Fissures, rifts, crevices, conflicts, inconsistencies, contradictions — these terms are by no means new to Milton criticism. But now reinflected and newly deployed, they are fast becoming the language of an emerging criticism in which this vocabulary points not to aberrations, indiscretions, or a poet’s noddings (much less snorings) but instead to acts of poetic engineering. These terms are...

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7: “Shifting Contexts” Artists’ Agon with the Biblical and Miltonic Samson

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pp. 164-161

The past decade has abounded with readings of Samson Agonistes — a remarkable number of them published, with weird appropriateness, in 2001–02. Yet as Derek N. C. Wood remarks, “There is less agreement now than there ever has been about [its] meaning. . . . Quite simply, even accounts given by belated liberal humanists and ‘close readers’ of what happens in the play can...

Images

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pp. 162-190

Part III: Milton’s Visionary Mode and Paradise Regain’d

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8: Why Is the Virgin Mary in Paradise Regain’d?

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pp. 193-214

Published together in 1671, Samson Agonistes and Paradise Regain’d are parallel texts: each adapts a biblical narrative to tell the story of a divinely born redeemer of his people. Samson and the Son not only have in common divine pedigrees, guaranteed to their mothers by an angelic messenger of God. Each also has a miraculous public career, marked by temptation, betrayal, and...

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9: Charles, Christ, and Icon of Kingship in Paradise Regain’d

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pp. 215-240

When Milton published Paradise Regain’d in 1671, England had experienced more than ten years of the kingship of Charles II. On the eve of the Restoration, Milton had denounced in The Ready and Easy Way the excesses of royal rule that were likely to ensue with the restoration of the monarchy and had called for the return of Christ the King rather than Charles the King. With Charles...

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10: From Last Things to First: The Apophatic Vision of Paradise Regain’d

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pp. 241-266

How can a poet write God? How can anyone — even a poet who doubles as a theologian — describe the indescribable? Milton struggles with this in his De doctrina Christiana, attempting to describe God in terms of such ideas as may be found in the Scriptures; however, he is emphatic in pointing out — as a kind of preface or qualification to all that follows, that “God, as he really is, is far...

Part IV: Milton’s Visionary Mode and the Last Poems

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11: From Politics to Faith in the Great Poems?

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pp. 269-286

How helpful are the schematic formulations and patterns critics employ to characterize the shape or trajectory of the late Milton’s responses to the political sphere in his great poems published during the Restoration? Is it at all helpful or even accurate to describe the visionary poet as withdrawing from politics into faith in the...

Notes

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pp. 287-326

Selected Publications by Michael Lieb

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pp. 327-332

About the Contributors

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pp. 333-336

Index

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pp. 337-346


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705330
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704296

Page Count: 371
Publication Year: 2010

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

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Prophecy in literature.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Political and social views.
  • Violence in literature.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Politics and literature -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Religion and literature -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Religion.
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