Volume 78, Issue 3 | September 2017

Special Issue: Milton and the Politics of Periodization

Author Title
Rachel Trubowitz Introduction
Author Title
Lee Morrissey Milton, Modernity, and the Periodization of Politics  
Periodized ďmodernityĒ unnecessarily polarizes Miltonís reception. His experience of modernity in the seventeenth century confounds the Enlightenment distinctions usually made about modernity. The periodized idea of modernity that continues to shape the study of Milton is dated, even antiquated, because it is treated as a period. It seems as if a generation has learned to read Restoration poetry through Dryden, and from Dryden to assume that poetry published during the Restoration must be poetry about the Restoration. Milton does not read his sources the way that periodizing scholarship has been reading his poetry. Readers can approach Miltonís works as he approached his earlier sources: to see what they might offer our understanding of events in our contexts, that is, anachronistically. Reading anachronistically is, after all, one of the principal advantages and pleasures of fiction, of literary study, and of metaphor. The alternative to what has been called ďthe poverty of contextĒ is the richness and variety of poetic contexts, understood diachronically.
James Nohrnberg Milton and the Divisions of History  
Miltonís thinking and oeuvre divide historical time and place the poet and his subjects on the verges of periodizing metamorphoses: different eras of epistemology, religious dispensations, archaeologies of knowledge, kinds of global consciousness, rival explanations of natural phenomena, and opposed physical and/or ethical sympathies. The copresence of polarized historical periods in Miltonís work remains a distinguishing feature; examples from preceding and succeeding periods make the case for recognizing in Milton a pivotal moment in English literary history and the history of ideas. In major fictions and narrations Miltonís poetry apperceives, thematizes, and embodiesóprehensively, as it wereóa unique occasion of historical change, as if from BC to AD: from John Dee to Robert Boyle, or from occult correspondences and secret world-connecting sympathies, to mechanical operations, controlled and repeatable experiments, and measurement-based, post-Baconian science. Miltonís Eve sins as the worldís first experimentalist and in effect breaks the World-Soulís cosmic heart: even as Spenserís Agape had previously re-created it allegorically, Neoplatonically, and metaphysically, and as philosophies of social consensus and psychologies of empathetic affect recollected it sentimentally and benevolently. Post-Miltonically, Satan has earned sympathy or pity: upon Sinís attaching our world with a great chain of necessitarian and material causality.
Andrew Hui The Soundscape of the Dying Pagan Gods in Milton's Nativity Ode  
Miltonís Nativity Ode is both noisy and quiet. It stages the collision of the classical and Christian traditions by retrieving the cessation-of-oracles topos, a myth transmitted from Plutarch, Eusebius, and Prudentius to Rabelais, Tasso, and Spenser. Miltonís innovation is to enfold the multiple voices of antiquity and the singular voice of the newborn Christ into a narrative about the poetís own development. In the silencing of the pagan oracles, celebration and lamentation converge. By purging the old godsí wailing, the poem prepares for the silent purity of the newborn babe and the inauguration of the young authorís voice.
Marissa Greenberg Milton Much Revolving  
Revolution as an act of turning is a crucial yet overlooked feature of Miltonís conception of historical periods. This essay, by examining Miltonís imagery of revolution, seeks to challenge conventional associations of Milton and periodization with teleological culmination and inaugural disruption. In Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained the phrase much revolving becomes iconic of revolution as period-defining movement. Miltonís characters pivot, roll, twist, contort, resist, and return. In doing so, they show, and not simply describe, the lived experience of periodizing change. The poet dismisses understandings of historical periods as closed cycles or linear progressions that are defined by renowned individuals and monumental events. Milton reveals periods to be open-ended and helical and makes immediately sensible the quotidian events, no less apocalyptic for their familiarity, that generate history.
John D. Staines The Age of Shakespeare versus the Age of Milton: Reopening the Noisy Theaters  
This essay explores the political implications of the periodization divides created by the closing of the public theaters in 1642 at the start of the English Civil War and their reopening in 1660 at the restoration of Charles II. The meaning of the theater, and the meanings attributed to the cultural icons of Shakespeare and Milton, played important parts in the cultural battle between royalists and republicans, and those debates continue to shape literary studies in the twenty-first-century university despite recent reevaluations of the literature of the Civil War and the Revolution. Shakespeare is walled off from Milton, drama separated from poetry, prose, and epic. These divides distort the readings of the periodís literature and, at a time of resource scarcity, threaten to limit which writers and texts are researched and taught. The essay concludes with a reading of Paradise Lost that puts drama, dialogue, and conversation at the center. In the dramatic Milton, meaning is found in dialogue and conversation, growing out of the noise of debate and conflict.
David Quint Milton, Waller, and the Fate of Eden  
Milton shapes his depiction of Eden in Paradise Lost as a response to Edmund Wallerís On St. Jamesís Park, a celebrated poem of the Restoration. Wallerís description of the royal park, newly improved by Charles IIóa a new Eden, a sacred, oracular grove next to the temple-like Westminster Abbey and the capitol-like Whitehallóis revisited in Miltonís epic. God expels Adam and Eve from Eden and subsequently washes away the garden during the Flood to prevent it from turning into a temple-and-grove along the lines of Pandaemonium or a capital seat like Charlesís London, in either case a habitation of devils. Miltonís point-by-point response to the antimodel of Wallerís poem reveals specific topicality and political engagement in the motifs of Paradise Lost: in this sense, Milton is a poet of the restoration he opposes.

Modern Language Quarterly | Department of English, Box 354330 | University of Washington | Seattle, WA 98195-4430