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Volume 5, Part 8 (<i>Paradise Lost,</i> Books 11–12)
This volume surveys all important and influential line-by-line commentary published between 1667 and 1970 on the impressive conclusion to Paradise Lost in books 11–12. In these last two books, Milton has taken the account of biblical history known to all his contemporaries and rendered it fresh by having the archangel Michael relate it to Adam in ways only partly suggested by the original text. In a series of visions in book 11, Michael shows Adam the results of his disobedience, and by a narration in book 12 the promise and revelation of “the greater Man” promised at the epic’s beginning (1.5). Adam and Eve move from repentant sorrow to invigorated hope, with the world before them and guided by Providence. The biblical influences on these last two books would have been instantly recognizable to Milton’s original audience, but the helpful notes in this volume identify biblical references and other theological matters for modern audiences. Similarly, Milton’s classical references to Homer, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and others are located and explained, along with Milton’s use of patristic, medieval, and early modern authors as well as later authors’ use of Milton. This volume will challenge the longstanding idea that the last two books of Paradise Lost are in any way inferior to the rest of the epic or unrelated to it. Besides the helpful introduction that traces the arguments over the value of the last books, the commentary to books 11 and 12 also demonstrates how many important and influential arguments about the epic are tied into these books. Successfully synthesizing a huge mass of Milton scholarship, Lares presents complex ideas clearly and succinctly.
Essays on Prophecy and Violence
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.
In this short, illuminating and very readable work, Philippe Nemo argues that what we call “the West” is one and only one cultural entity, to which both North America and Western Europe belong. In contemporary debates, then, Nemo asserts, it is simply incorrect to exaggerate the differences or gaps between countries that are indeed “Western.” Brilliantly and succinctly surveying the last five or six millenia, Nemo pieces together the history of the West’s development. He weaves together political events, philosophical discoveries, religious movements, and scientific and technological innovations to demonstrate the factors that have influenced and shaped Western culture. Nemo acknowledges the essential contributions of Greek science and philosophy, Roman law, Christian thought, and modern democratic revolutions to our contemporary liberal democracies. In his conclusion, Nemo presents a case for closer geopolitical cooperation among Western societies. Already translated from the original French into Portuguese, Italian, German and Greek, What is the West? has received considerable interest throughout Europe; earlier this year, in fact, it received the Italian Citte della Rose prize for essays. Now available for the first time in English, this book is essential reading for those interested in contemporary cultural debates on Western culture, nationhood and American values, as well as those interested in world history and politics, philosophy and religion, and contemporary global politics. Not geared to specifically conservative or liberal viewpoints but to an accurate rendering of historical ideas and trends, Nemo’s book should do much to advance our understanding of each other in an increasingly global community.
Rhetoric and the Poetry of Pembroke, Wroth, and Lanyer
Rhetorically analyzing their verse within a gender-inclusive context, Women Writing of Divinest Things broadens our understanding of Renaissance women’s poetry in literary history. Scholars have long recognized that the culture of early modern England was deeply informed by rhetorical habits of speech and thought, yet until now there has been no full-length study of the role rhetoric played in poetry by women of the period. Women Writing of Divinest Things addresses this gap.
A Sylvan Pastoral Nation
In Writing the Forest in Early Modern England: A Sylvan Pastoral Nation, Jeffrey S. Theis focuses on pastoral literature in early modern England as an emerging form of nature writing. In particular, Theis analyzes what happens when pastoral writing is set in forests — what he terms “sylvan pastoral.”
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, forests and woodlands played an instrumental role in the formation of individual and national identities in England. Although environmentalism as we know it did not yet exist, persistent fears of timber shortages led to a larger anxiety about the status of forests. Perhaps more important, forests were dynamic and contested sites of largely undeveloped spaces where the poor would migrate in a time of rising population when land became scarce. And in addition to being a place where the poor would go, the forest also was a playground for monarchs and aristocrats where they indulged in the symbolically rich sport of hunting. Conventional pastoral literature, then, transforms when writers use it to represent and define forests and the multiple ways in which English society saw these places. In exploring these themes, authors expose national concerns regarding deforestation and forest law and present views relating to land ownership, nationhood, and the individual’s relationship to nature. Of particular interest are the ways in which cultures turn confusing spaces into known places and how this process is shaped by nature, history, gender, and class.
Theis examines the playing out of these issues in familiar works by Shakespeare, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and As You Like It, Andrew Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House,” John Milton’s Mask and Paradise Lost, as well as in lesser known prose works of the English Revolution, such as James Howell’s Dendrologia>/i> and John Evelyn’s Sylva. As a unique ecocritical study of forests in early modern English literature, Writing the Forest makes an important contribution to the growing field of the history of environmentalism, and will be of interest to those working in literary and cultural history as well as philosophers concerned with nature and space theory.