We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

To Repair the Ruins

Reading Milton

edited by Mary C. Fenton and Louis Schwartz

Publication Year: 2012

Recent John Milton scholarship has seen a revival of interest in the practice of close reading: historically and theoretically informed attention to the author’s poetic and rhetorical style. Responding to this emerging trend, To Repair the Ruins examines how close reading functions as an act of recovery, an attempt to close the gap between past and present, or as an act of repair that uses the past to reenvision a ruined or fallen present. In this volume’s 12 essays, esteemed scholars offer fresh perspectives on the significance of close reading for Milton criticism, presenting both new topics in Milton studies and new ways to read and think about previously considered topics. Part 1 of the book calls for revival—for a return to close reading, an exploration of Milton’s undervalued Latin poems, and a reexamination of neglected aspects of Paradise Lost. Part 2 analyzes Milton’s understanding of inward experience and the relationship between reading, self-reflection, and action. Part 3 explores the historical record—medieval Catholicism, Milton’s biography, and seventeenth century religious conflicts—to shed light on forgotten or obscured details central to the meaning of particular texts. Finally, part 4 assesses not merely the author’s reception history, but also the ways in which Milton’s work has been used to address the concerns and even amend the problems of later readers—from politicians to visual artists to prisoners. Each chapter, in one way or another, attempts to bridge the gap between literary and historical studies—between the delight we may take in the beauty, in the unstable, sometimes bewildering proliferation of meanings we encounter in a poem, and the worldly commitments of an author trying to prosecute arguments in a world of policy and ideological or theological conflict. A significant contribution to Milton studies, To Repair the Ruins will also be of interest to scholars concerned with general discussions of close reading, as well as Protestant revisionist poetics, art, environment, and devotional practice.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Series: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (103.5 KB)

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (35.1 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (30.9 KB)
pp. xi

We are grateful to Charles Durham, Kristin Pruitt, and Kevin Donovan for organizing the biannual Conference on John Milton in 2009 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, from which all of the essays in To Repair the Ruins: Reading Milton originated as presentations. The conference...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (101.8 KB)
pp. 1-17

To Repair the Ruins: Reading Milton presents essays united by their participation in the recent revival among scholars and critics with an interest in close reading — historically and theoretically informed attention to Milton’s poetic and rhetorical style — and in the history...

Part One: Recovering Milton’s Poetics

read more

1. Lord Monboddo, Close Reading, and “Density of Sense” in Paradise Lost

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.3 KB)
pp. 21-39

The Milton Society of America is the mildest of academic communities, and its annual meeting at the MLA convention is usually the most convivial of social and scholarly occasions. But a different mood prevailed at the Hotel Statler in New York City on Thursday, December...

read more

2. Milton’s Pagan Counterpoetic: Eros and Inspiration in Elegy 5

pdf iconDownload PDF (166.3 KB)
pp. 41-76

Stanley Fish’s challenge — “It’s the poetry, stupid” — prompts us to delve into the neglected treasure trove of Milton’s Latin poems, not just as supplements to the English poems providing discursive and thematic readings of them, or as supplements to our readings of...

read more

3. Milton’s Empyreal Conceit

pdf iconDownload PDF (178.5 KB)
pp. 77-113

Andrew Marvell, like Plato in the epigraph above, worried that a particular kind of poesis might compete with philosophy, especially that kind of philosophy concerned with the discursive expression of sacred truths: theology. The object of Marvell’s worry, of course, was...

Part Two: Rereading the Inner Landscape

read more

4. Reading, Recognition, Learning, and Love in Paradise Regained

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.5 KB)
pp. 117-145

Paradise Regained is a poem about how we learn, and do not learn, through reading. The poem asks us to consider what we are doing when we read. Nowhere is this question asked more pointedly than in the Son’s repeated comments on the activity and purpose of...

read more

5. Paradise Regained in the Closet: Private Piety in the Brief Epic

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.5 KB)
pp. 147-172

Critics have long wondered why Milton, in Paradise Regained, focused on Jesus’ interlude in the desert with its quiescent mood as opposed to a more dazzling episode in the remarkable history of the Son of God incarnate. I suggest that the answer may be sought and found...

read more

6. Restoration Dissent, Conscience, and the Paradise Within in Paradise Lost

pdf iconDownload PDF (119.7 KB)
pp. 173-192

On August 17, 1662, Presbyterian minister Edmund Calamy preached at Saint Mary Aldermanbury that the straits to which martyrs were driven “for God and a good Conscience” were “so sweetned to them by the consolations and supportations of God’s spirit” that...

Part Three: Recovering Ruins

read more

7. Milton’s Genii Loci and the Medieval Saints

pdf iconDownload PDF (122.8 KB)
pp. 195-216

Milton seems to have been fascinated by the idea that physical places on earth could be inhabited by their own indwelling spirits or genii loci, tutelary spirits who protected those places and willingly extended assistance to supplicant mortals. Milton expresses this...

read more

8. David and Charles, Laud and Satan: The Two-Handed Engine of 1 Chronicles 21

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.7 KB)
pp. 217-230

When Milton was composing Lycidas in the autumn of 1637, the sensational trial and public punishment of the arch-Puritans Dr. John Bastwick, the Reverend Henry Burton, and Mr. William Prynne had lately taken place in London. On June 14, 1637, they were brought into...

read more

9. Unruly Daughter, Virtuous Wife: The Double Subject and Double Occasion of Milton’s Sonnet 9

pdf iconDownload PDF (120.1 KB)
pp. 231-251

This poem, unlike the Italian sonnets that precede it, is Petrarchan only in form. Milton had portrayed himself as a lover in his Italian sonnets, and then had used Petrarchan form in two very different poems about his personal crisis (Sonnet 7) and a political...

Part Four: Reception, Ruin, and Repair

read more

10. Milton, Cromwell, and Napoleon in Chateaubriand and Hugo

pdf iconDownload PDF (141.8 KB)
pp. 255-282

Like Milton, Chateaubriand (1768–1848) and Victor Hugo (1802– 85) responded passionately to an age of revolution. Although both Chateaubriand and Hugo lived through several revolutions, those that cast the longest shadow over the nineteenth century were the French...

read more

11. The Fate of Place in Paradise Lost: Three Artists Reading Milton

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.6 MB)
pp. 283-338

“In the era that stretches from Aristotle to Newton,” writes Edward Casey in The Fate of Place, “place lost out to space” — giving rise to a literature that is distinctly early modern. No major work from the period responds more fully to this conceptual...

read more

12. Education as Repair: Paradise Lost in Prison

pdf iconDownload PDF (114.0 KB)
pp. 339-358

In Of Education, Milton not only claims that learning will “make many . . . renowned and matchlesse men,” and that it will “fetch . . . out” any “secret excellence” hidden in students, he even goes so far as to claim that “the end then of learning is to repair the ruins...


pdf iconDownload PDF (389.3 KB)
pp. 359-422

About the Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.8 KB)
pp. 423-427


pdf iconDownload PDF (4.3 MB)
pp. 429-436

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705798
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704548

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 29 artwork reproductions
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies