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Milton and Maternal Mortality


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  • Date Published: August 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107403055

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About the Authors
  • All too often, childbirth in early modern England was associated with fear, suffering and death, and this melancholy preoccupation weighed heavily on the seventeenth-century mind. This landmark study examines John Milton's life and work, uncovering evidence of the poet's engagement with maternal mortality and the dilemmas it presented. Drawing on both literary scholarship and historical research, Louis Schwartz provides important readings of Milton's poetry, including Paradise Lost, as well as a wide-ranging survey of the medical practices and religious beliefs that surrounded the perils of childbirth. The reader is granted a richer understanding of how seventeenth-century society struggled to come to terms with its fears, and how one of its most important poets gave voice to that struggle.

    • Was the first full-length study of maternal mortality in Milton's work
    • Provides fresh readings of his poetry
    • Enters into a dialogue with contemporary historical research, illuminating aspects of Milton's work that had previously been obscured
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    • Winner of the 2010 James Holly Hanford Book Award from the Milton Society of America

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The careful and detailed research that went into this book is reflected in cautious wording and a multitude of footnotes and cross-references, making it useful as a reference tool as well as adding interpretative suggestions that should be considered in future work on the poems concerned.' English Studies

    'Schwartz is to be highly commended for drawing back the curtain, not only on the reproductive drama of the seventeenth-century birthing chamber but also on Milton's rich and varied life-long poetic engagement with it.' Karen Bollerman, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107403055
    • length: 282 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Behind the Veil: Childbirth and the Nature of Obstetric Anxiety in Early Modern England:
    1. 'Exquisitt torment' and 'infinitt grace': maternal suffering and the rites of childbirth
    2. When things went wrong: maternal mortality and obstetric anxiety
    3. Religious frameworks
    Part II. 'Scarce-Well-Lighted Flame': The Representation of Maternal Mortality in Milton's Early Poetry:
    4. 'Too much conceaving': Milton's 'On Shakespear'
    5. 'Tears of perfect moan': Milton and the Marchioness of Winchester
    6. 'Farr above in spangled sheen': A Mask and its epilogue
    Part III. Conscious Terrors: The Problem of Maternal Mortality in Milton's Later Poetry:
    7. The wide wound and the veil: Sonnet 23 and the birth of Eve
    8. 'Conscious terrors' and the 'Promised Seed': seventeenth-century obstetrics and the allegory of sin and death
    9. The 'Womb of waters' and the 'Abortive Gulph': on the reproductive imagery of Milton's cosmos.

  • Author

    Louis Schwartz, University of Richmond, Virginia


    • Winner of the 2010 James Holly Hanford Book Award from the Milton Society of America

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