John Milton

Why read Milton?

I posted this as a response to the previous entry, but I think it deserves its own entry in this community.

When I was an undergraduate, I was required to take Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. Do you think all undergraduate English majors should have to study Milton? Why? Or why not?
Bow. [Zooey Deschanel]

I hope this community's not dead.

Hey kids, I'm a brand new lover of John Milton. Thanks to a favorite professor, a man who probably knows more about Milton than Milton ever knew, I decided to read Paradise Lost. (I figured I should get a jump in case he ever teaches his Milton class again.) I know I don't have to tell ya'll how wonderful, beautiful, brilliant, fantastic Paradise Lost is.

So anyway, I guess I just wanted to do a quick intro. I'm a sophomore and a Lit major at a university you've probably never heard of. I've got big plans, including a PhD in Literature and hopefully teaching it someday. Uh, I don't suppose there's anything else to say.


I am by no means a stellar maker of icons, but I made this one for myself the other day and thought some of you might like it. Feel free to snatch it.

The text is from Paradise Lost, Book X, lines 1152-1153:
Was I to have never parted from thy side?
As good have grown there still a lifeless rib.

(The image came up on a "ribs" search through Google...not mine, not mine.)

Since there seems to be a shortage of Milton icons on elljay, I plan to make more this summer. If you'd like something in particular, make an order in the comments; I'll likely oblige, if I make it through all my grading.
miniature beach gymnast

Milton's "Fundamentalism" Not Like Ours


Stanley Fish’s book, How Milton Works is a very valuable book on many accounts: it restores Milton to the radically Christian, non-humanist camp to which he belongs; it effectively ends the Romantic and post-Romantic view of him as being, in any sense at all “of Satan’s party” without knowing it—a view which Romantics like Blake HAD to adopt, to make any sense of him at all, it would seem—so far away were they (and are we) from his essentially mystical Christian temperament.

Fish also makes clear, however, that Milton’s rejection of modern “conservative” and Fundamentalist Christianity would have been total, on account of the “literalism” that he would have deemed materialist and anti-spiritual. I quote the relevant passages of How Milton Works:
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Now, isn’t that the best description we’ve read in a while of the spiritual malaise of Christian Fundamentalists—of those who, as a matter of fact, probably think, in reading the works of Milton, that he’s a member of their faction?
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Response to Nick

Somebody left a comment to an older post in this community asking a couple basic questions about Milton, and since nobody's posted anything here recently and it was a good question, I'm putting my response here instead of as a reply to that comment.

John Milton the name rings a bell, i've heard of him, but have never read any of his work. Came across Paradise Lost/Regained today and it was amazing. Reading a couple passages from both books i was impressed. What i would like to find out is whether Milton was a Christian (reform theology) and if not, from what worldview perspective was he writing?



[This is a bit rushed, since I have schoolwork to do tonight--but I can't pass up a question about Milton, come on!]

Milton was a Christian, and a very Protestant one. I don't know how much historical background you have, but just briefly:

He lived in England during the seventeenth century, which was a time of immense religious (and related political) struggle. Part of this struggle was the English Civil War, in which the king and his Laudian/Arminian (ritualistic, liturgical, theologically more favorable to free will than predestination) state church were overthrown and replaced by a series of governments of varying success which, while overall somewhat more favorable to extreme Puritan/other Protestant sects, predominantly promoted Presbyterianism. Milton began his public career writing propaganda for the rebels during the Civil War and afterwards was employed for years as the state Latin secretary. While he was vehemently opposed to the Laudian church, and outwardly conformist enough (just barely) to remain within the post-War government, he found many of the same flaws in the new Presbyterian church: it was oppressive, dictating overmuch to individual consciences what they should believe and how they should worship.

Theologically as well as ecclesiastically Milton was something of a rebel; his views seem to have grown more radical as he grew older (as one reason, most suggest disillusionment at the Protestants' failed attempt to create a reformed Christian state after the Civil War), although evidence for them in all their complexity can be found throughout his literary career. Two of his most important beliefs seem to have been: an "Arminian" view of the role of human will and choice in salvation, ie. his theology was not Reformed; and a gradual rejection of the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity--his rationale for this is clearly laid out in On Christian Doctrine (published posthumously, but it is the accepted view among scholars that Milton is definitely its author) but comes through a bit in some of the poetry, for example parts of Paradise Lost, which he seems to have been writing at the same time. Another theological issue often associated with Milton is divorce--at the beginning of his career he published a series of tracts arguing that divorce is permissible for Christians not only in cases traditionally allowed by the church (eg. adultery) but also when the married people are not suited to one another intellectually or personally.

If you want to get a good idea of Milton's worldview in his own words, I suggest that you read his famous tract called Areopagitica--the one where he writes against censorship. His arguments are compelling and interesting and reveal a good deal of his own beliefs and premises. It's not short, but there are probably some good abridged versions floating around the web.

[Members of this community, feel free to add anything else you think is important and correct me if I've said anything stupid. Thanks!]

(no subject)

Merry Christmas to all from your friendly mod, with a special anti-pagan message from the poet himself.

"On the Morning of Christs Nativity" (1629)

This is the Month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the Son of Heav'ns eternal King,
Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring;
For so the holy sages once did sing,
That he our deadly forfeit should release,
And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.

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from here
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Is Milton hard?

I tried some book-swapping with my mother for the Christmas holiday and suggested she read "Paradise Lost." Now, it was five pages into it that she stopped and reported to me that she simply didn't get it. I read her some of it, asked what the problem was, and she said "he's talking too much about things that aren't actually going on in his poem, and it's hard to tell what's happening." Then she said "I only read for fun." I was shocked! Milton's not fun? Then why do I read him?

So I gave her "Crime and Punishment" instead. Question: Do you think Milton is hard, or do you think poetry itself is just hard for people to read when they're used to reading novels? I've heard people complain before that Milton's syntax is confusing, and it seems like half of appreciating Paradise Lost is appreciating it in the context of its literary tradition (as an "epic" poem). I wish she'd give it a chance, but I'm not sure how to introduce her to it again.

Translated Milton

Can anyone tell me something about J. Milton's poerty (also Paradise Lost/Regained) translated into German. When was it first translatet and by whom? Are there any books about the history of that translations or may be comparative research books?

Could someone tell me if Milton was influenced by the philosophy of Leibniz or vice versa?

A small tribute to Blake

If I hadn't been awake for so long I could make this really informative, but--today is William Blake's birthday. (He would be 248 years old.) Likely most of you know that he regarded Milton as a role model, and was one of the Romantic poets who perceived Satan to be the hero of Paradise Lost (which he illustrated).

Some handy links:

Wikipedia article
Blake's illustrations of Paradise Lost
The William Blake Archive
"Milton: a poem"
also williamblake--*cough*

"The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it."--The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


Couple O' Questions

Hi everyone! Glad to see there's a Milton community up and running. Just a couple of quick question for you...

-I try to read "PL" every few years. I'm looking for an edition that's more comprehensive than the three-dollar smashed up Wordsworth Classics paperback I've had since high school, but also more portable than the five-pound Riverside Milton that was used in my undergrad Milton class. Has anyone read a paperback edition (Oxford? Penguin?) that has good footnotes as well as some critical discussion?

-Is there a definitive biography of Milton?

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