John Milton’s major poems have long provoked wide-ranging judgments about the purposes of his biblical engagement. In this elegant and insightful study, Phillip J. Donnelly transforms our common perceptions about Milton’s writing. He challenges the traditional assumption that the poet shared our modern view that reason is a capacity whose purpose is to control nature. Instead, Milton’s conception of reason - both human and divine - is bound up with a poetic sense of difference, a capacity for being faithful to a goodness and beauty that survives the effects of human frailty in the fall. Providing fresh new readings of Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, Donnelly gives us important new perspectives on Milton’s aesthetics, theology and politics.
Preface and acknowledgments; Abbreviations and editions; 1. Introduction: scriptural reasoning; Part I. Scriptural Reasoning in Milton's Prose: 2. Reason, rhetoric, and educational reading; 3. Monism and Protestant toleration; Part II. Biblicist Rhetoric and Ontology in Paradise Lost: Part II introduction; 4. Divine justice and divine filiation; 5. Divine kingship; 6. Rational battle; 7. Rational allegory and gender; Part III. Biblicist Poetics and Hermeneutic Ethics: Part III introduction; 8. Biblical metanarrative as rule of faith; 9. Paradise Regained as rule of charity; 10. Samson Agonistes as personal drama; Notes; Subject index; Index of scripture references.