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To Repair the Ruins: Reading Milton

by Mary C Fenton and Louis Schwartz Duquesne University Press
Pub Date:
09/2012
ISBN:
9780820704548
Format:
Hbk 446 pages
Price:
AU$119.00 NZ$123.48
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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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 twelve 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 one 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 two analyzes Milton’s understanding of inward experience and the relationship between reading, self-reflection, and action. Part three 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 four 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.


Mary C. Fenton is professor of English at Western Carolina University and a past president of the Milton Society of America.

Louis Schwartz is professor of English at the University of Richmond.