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Milton and the Science of the Saints

Milton and the Science of the Saints

Georgia B. Christopher
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 278
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    Milton and the Science of the Saints
    Book Description:

    In the most sweeping claim yet made for Milton's puritanism, Georgia B. Christopher holds that the great poet assimilated classical literature through Reformation categories, not humanist ones. Examining Milton's major works against the beliefs of Luther and Calvin, she shows how his poetry reflects their view of Scripture, the extra-literary properties they accorded God's speech, and the responses they expected of readers.

    Originally published in 1982.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5351-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Miltonʹs ʺLiteraryʺ Theology
    (pp. 3-30)

    When Erasmus translatedLogos(λόγος) assermo(speech) rather than asverbum(reason) in his 1516 edition of the New Testament, he prepared the way for Luther to cast aside the entire philosophical tradition in which the eternal Son was understood as the mind and instrument of God.¹ Luther, who was working on his commentary on Romans at the time, immediately availed himself of Erasmusʹ scholarship and proceeded to work out an antiphilosophical theology that dealt in literary categories. He conceived of God, not asActus Purus,but as a person who ʺspeaks.ʺ Seizing upon the naïve analogy that Father...

  6. 2 Masque à Clef
    (pp. 31-58)

    InComus,Milton covers ʺthe wordʺ all too well, making it a puzzle rather than a mystery hidden in plain sight. The young poet, toying with Spenserʹs dark conceit, makes it even darker than Book I ofThe Faerie Queene,which it resembles in many ways. Spenser at least provided sententia now and then, but Milton—perhaps partly for political reasons—leaves us to guess how much more is meant by ʺchastityʺ and ʺvirginityʺ than meets the ear, and we must guess from hints that are so contradictory as to suggest either a failure of artistic control or sheer playfulness....

  7. 3 The Crooked Scripture
    (pp. 59-88)

    InParadise LostMilton returns to the esthetic announced in the Nativity Ode, in which Godʹs word as explicit doctrine governs the world of the poem. Evil is no mere clank of chains or the swingeing of a Dragonʹs tail in Miltonʹs epic, but has its own voice, articulate and strong enough to contest—some would say undermine—the supremacy of Godʹs voice. The epic will be seriously misread unless we understand that Satan and God do not speak the same language. Vergil, following common epic practice, has both the Greeks and the Trojans speak Latin—a minor epic convention...

  8. 4 The Verbum Reale
    (pp. 89-134)

    The act that sets Satan on his mad course occurs in the ʺPrimal Sceneʺ of Book V. 600-615 and has no close precedent in hexameral literature. Milton seems to have invented it to stand as the Ur-drama of the Reformation: God speaking and the creature responding, for better or for worse. Just how farParadise Losthas come from the Platonic esthetic ofComusmay be seen if we look at Miltonʹs version of the Fall in comparison with that of Spenser and St. Augustine himself.The City of Goddefines Godʹs Word as an ideational template and cautions that...

  9. 5 The Garden of Reason
    (pp. 135-174)

    Miltonʹs Garden is innocent of the kind of doctrinal formula that fills heaven, but nonetheless takes its shape from Reformation doctrine, particularly Lutherʹs evangelical ʺopeningʺ of the Old Testament and hisde factoinstitution of a verbal sacrament. Hitherto exegesis had valued the Old Testament mainly for the typology it contained. The Old Dispensation was a dark and barbaric era that was of little intrinsic interest as history, however useful it might be as a contrast to the New Dispensation. MacCallum, Madsen, and Lewalski have reminded us that, for all the Reformers said about the literal level, they were still...

  10. 6 The Portable Paradise
    (pp. 175-198)

    When Dante arrives at the Earthly Paradise atop Mount Purgatory, he meets something resembling a Corpus Christi procession—he sees a veiled Beatrice drawn in a car by a Gryffon, preceded and followed by a file of white-robed elders representing the books of the Bible. The parade presents the entire span of sacred history, the central point of which is the Incarnation (figured by the two-natured Gryffon) and the Host (figured by a veiled Beatrice). In much the same way, the last two books ofParadise Lostpresent the puritan ʺsacramentʺ set within biblical history as thesine qua non...

  11. 7 The Secret Agent
    (pp. 199-224)

    In the final books ofParadise Lost,Adam and Eve are armed for the wilderness, butParadise Regainedshows what the battle of the wilderness is to be like and how it is won. If the Paradise Within consists of a heartfelt knowledge of biblical theology, then Miltonʹs brief epic shows why this new paradise is safe against the thief of Eden.Paradise Regainedis a classic example of the Reformation tendency to refer biblical imagery and points of salvation history to verbal action. On many occasions, Luther stressed the word over the work of Christ and typically claimed that...

  12. 8 Peculiar Grace
    (pp. 225-254)

    InSamson Agonistes,Milton most artfully exploits the possibilities of the Protestant hermeneutic so that the line of dramatic action is bold and simple, yet has a pervasive oracular character. More than any other work by Milton, this drama is amenable to alternate routes of interpretation, both at moments of allusive density and at times when the dramatic action is considered as a whole. The drama may appear to be a retreat from Christian affirmation toward a more profound and dread accounting of lifeʹs darkness, it may appear as a typological affirmation of the ultimate victory of Christ, or it...

  13. Index
    (pp. 255-264)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)