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Milton's Messiah: The Son of God in the Works of John Milton [Hardcover]

Russell M. Hillier

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Book Description

May 2, 2011 0199591881 978-0199591886 1
Milton's Messiah provides the first comprehensive book-length analysis of the nature and significance of the Son of God in Milton's poetry and theology. The book engages with Biblical and Patristic theology, Reformation and post-Reformation thought, and the original Latin of the treatise De Doctrina Christiana, to argue for a radical reassessment of Milton's doctrine of the atonement and its importance for understanding Milton's poetics. In the footsteps of Dennis Danielson's Milton's Good God, this study responds to William Empson's celebrated portrayal of Milton's God as a deity invoking dread and awe, and instead locates the ultimately affirming presence of mercy, grace, and charity in Milton's epic vision. Challenging the attribution of an Arian or Socinian model to Milton's conception of the Son, this interdisciplinary interpretation marshals theological, philological, philosophical, and literary-critical methods to establish, for the first time, not only the centrality of the Son and his salvific office for Milton's oeuvre, but also the variety of ways in which the Son's restorative influence is mediated through the scenes, characters, actions, and utterances of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regain'd. From the allegorical sites Satan encounters as he voyages through the cosmos, to Eve's first taste of the Forbidden Fruit, to the incarnate Son's perilous situation poised atop the Temple pinnacle, Hillier illustrates how a redemptive poetics upholds Milton's proclaimed purpose to assert eternal providence and justify God's ways. This original study should court debate and controversy alike over Milton's priorities as a poet and a religious thinker.

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Editorial Reviews


"Hillier's is a thorough analysis of the presence of Christ and his work of salvation in Milton's poetry. The author ably interweaves evidence for Milton's soteriology with readings of important passages from his treatise De Doctrina Christiana, and his meticulous discussion of the importance of Christ in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained is supported by numerous examples from contemporary and patristic authors, as well as from classical sources. Hillier never wanders far from Milton's text - indeed, very few paragraphs are without direct quotations from the poems - and the result is an understanding of how, in his literary works, Milton projected the Son's role in the context of a theology based on the doctrine of redemption." --The Heythrop Journal

"Milton's Messiah is a fine scholarly work that demands and rewards the concentration
of readers, particularly those who share some familiarity with soteriological discourse... Hillier offers distinctive and illuminating close readings of important passages from both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regain'd, not a mean feat these days." --Modern Language Review

"Hillier's readings of Milton's poetry are frequently excellent, having that all-too-rare combination of dense learning and readability. This is a book well worth the attention of students of Milton and of Reformation theology, and one that makes a significant contribution to scholarship." --Renaissance Quarterly

"Most striking about Hillier.'s analysis is his excellent use of Milton's De Doctrina Christiana which continually supports his readings of Milton's faith in the power of redemption. ... Hillier's study is one that empathises with his modern reader ... detailed discussions of the Bible and Milton's work offer invaluable support and depth to the reader's understanding of seventeenth-century Protestantism." --The Glass

About the Author

Russell M. Hillier was born in the West Country of England. He took his BA and MA degrees in Classics and English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, and in 2008 he completed his Ph.D at Selwyn College, Cambridge University. He has published numerous articles in journals that include Milton Quarterly, Milton Studies, Studies in English Literature, and Studies in Philology, on writers as diverse as John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Cormac McCarthy. He is currently Assistant Professor of English at Providence College, Rhode Island.

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