Spokesperson Milton: Voices in Contemporary Criticism
The twenty essays in this book explore John Milton's role as a spokesperson for a variety of cultural, theological, political, and artistic concerns.
In the opening essay, John T. Shawcross sets the tone for the volume in identifying Milton as spokesperson, first according to eighteenth-century standards, then in light of modern attention to issues of politics, feminism, and hierarchy. He concludes that Milton's voice has often been used in support of opposing causes both in the eighteenth century and in ours. The essays that follow confirm that, in its range and scope, Milton's powerful voice was not one but many.
In part II the authors address and interpret religious themes in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. The essays in part III suggest the extent to which politics inform Milton's poetry and contribute to the shaping of his prose, and they consider the effect of those political views on Milton's contemporaries and on later generations of readers. Part IV investigates ways in which Milton establishes his own authority within texts and encourages readers to choose between conflicting models of authority.
Milton's adaptation of traditional literary motifs and forms is addressed in part V, and part VI explores issues of gender and hierarchy in light of Milton's portrayals of the relationships between Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost and Samson and Dalila in Samson Agonistes.
Although the scholars represented in this collection apply different theoretical approaches to their examinations of Milton's poetry and prose, they all challenge earlier critical assumptions and are evidence of the energizing dialogue that occurs when readers converse with each other and engage in dialogue with the many voices of a spokesperson such as John Milton.
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