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Milton and the Burden of Freedom


  • Date Published: February 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316607114

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About the Authors
  • Throughout his writings, Milton, deeply engaged in political and theological controversy, sought to clear a space for human freedom in a world ruled by an omniscient and omnipotent deity. Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes, as well as other works by Milton in verse and prose, explore the problematical aspects of a universe ruled by an Old Testament God of wrath, demanding obedience, who allows his creatures the freedom to be 'authors' of their own fate. Milton and the Burden of Freedom examines the contradictions inherent in Milton's religious, political, and ethical beliefs as expressed in his poems, prose writings, and the treatise De Doctrina Christiana. Milton, whose writings are rooted in the Reformed tradition while challenging Calvinist orthodoxy, is both radical and conservative. In this book, Warren Chernaik traces the evolution of Milton's attitude towards freedom, servitude and virtue during a century of political upheaval and disappointed hopes.

    • There is no recent book by a single author treating the full range of Milton's writing, with a coherent argument and unlimited in scope
    • Intended as an alternative to the new orthodoxies of Milton criticism, arguing an independent line
    • Wide-ranging, with a clear argument, accessible to general readers as well as Milton specialists
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Topics include the relations between divine Providence and human freedom, classical and biblical republicanism, God's justice and God's mercy, law and Gospel, and Milton's anti-monarchical politics and the divine monarchy of Paradise Lost. While these are familiar subjects to Miltonists, Chernaik discusses them with lucidity and sound judgment, drawing on a mature knowledge of Milton's work, of the writings of his contemporaries, and of Milton criticism past and present.' Tobias Gregory, Renaissance Quarterly

    'Distinctive, engaged, battling, and illuminating, a warm, empathetic intended corrective to the new orthodoxies. Unlike most modern Miltonists, Chernaik describes a Milton whom he actually likes … Chernaik turns inward on the texts, illuminating them by reading them as a sort of internal commentary, a dialectic that reads prose against poetry, polemic against seemingly unengaged writing, Latin against English, early against late. The results are fascinating, and sometimes genuinely surprising, as unexpected connections emerge.' Thomas Corns, Bangor University

    'This new book on Milton, beautifully written and strongly argued, should be read by anyone who reads, writes about, or teaches Milton, for it addresses and makes great sense of the problematic aspects and contradictions in and within Milton's writings, from his Mask and the polemical prose through Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. … The range, intelligence, and grace of this powerful book are remarkable, as it grapples with so many of the problematic aspects of Milton's prose and poetry that have bothered critics over the years and that continue to puzzle and sometimes irritate the students we teach.' Achsah Guibbory, Barnard College, New York

    'Milton and the Burden of Freedom is a vigorous, wide-ranging study that showcases Chernaik's intimate knowledge of Milton's work and its scholarly reception. Chernaik draws insightful connections between the poetry and the prose, between early and late Milton.' Milton Quarterly

    'This alluringly titled book presents a wide-ranging study of Milton's ideas of liberty and freedom, in both his poetry and his prose … This work undoubtedly makes a significant contribution to Milton studies.' Esther van Raamsdonk, MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

    'In its comprehensive scope, focused analysis, and lucid engagement with Milton's writings and intellectual contexts, Milton and the Burden of Freedom is a compelling and challenging book.' Claire Falck, Religion & Literature

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316607114
    • length: 284 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. Free to fall: Milton and the Old Testament God
    1. Milton's post-Calvinist theology
    2. 'Providence their guide': providence in Milton
    3. The unpolluted temple of the mind: virtue on trial
    4. Classical and Biblical Republicanism: Milton and some contemporaries
    5. Victory's crest: Milton, the English nation, and Cromwell
    6. Monarchy and servitude: the politics of Paradise Lost
    7. God's just yoke: power and justice in Paradise Lost
    8. 'Tyrannie must be': Milton and the Restoration

  • Author

    Warren Chernaik, King's College London
    Warren Chernaik is Emeritus Professor of English, University of London. He was the founding Director of the Institute of English Studies (IES), University of London, and is now a Senior Research Fellow of IES. He is the author of The Myth of Rome in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Cambridge, 2011), The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's History Plays (Cambridge, 2007), a study of The Merchant of Venice (2005), Sexual Freedom in Restoration Literature (Cambridge, 1995) and The Poet's Time: Politics and Religion in the Work of Andrew Marvell (Cambridge, 1983). He has also published essays on such authors as Marvell, Milton, Shakespeare, Jonson, Herbert, Traherne, Rochester, Pepys, and Behn, and has co-edited books on topics as diverse as detective fiction, changes in copyright law, and Andrew Marvell.

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