Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, 2nd Edition 2nd Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0674857476
ISBN-10: 067485747X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Thirty years after its original publication. Surprised by Sin remains the one indispensable book on Milton. This dazzling, high-stakes work of mind taught a generation of readers how to read anew. And, lest we thought its rigorous injunctions had been dulled or blandly assimilated by the intervening years, Fish dares us, in a formidable new preface, to think again. (Linda Gregerson, University of Michigan)

Thirty years ago, Surprised by Sin initiated the modern age in Milton criticism. Still the one book necessarily engaged by Milton scholars, it continues to provoke, irritate, and illuminate. Reissued now, with a substantial new preface, it clarifies in fascinating ways not only the course of Milton studies but also the continuing career of its controversial author. (Marshall Grossman, University of Maryland at College Park)

The first edition of Surprised by Sin revised the critical landscape of Milton studies more significantly and more influentially than any other analysis of Paradise Lost in modern history. The second edition contains a substantial preface, not only an apologia but also a brilliant critical manifesto in its own right. Fish thereby affirms the validity, preeminence, and timeliness of his "great argument," which will continue to inform critical debates unremittingly in the future. (Albert C. Labriola, Duquesne University)

About the Author

Stanley Fish is Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His many books include There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It's a Good Thing Too.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 2nd edition (March 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067485747X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674857476
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University. He has previously taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has received many honors and awards, including being named the Chicagoan of the Year for Culture. He is the author of twelve books and is now a weekly columnist for the New York Times. He resides in Andes, New York; New York City; and Delray Beach, Florida; with his wife, Jane Tompkins.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By jon bornholdt on July 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
According to Fish, "Paradise Lost" operates according to a mechanism of rhetorical indirection that works on all rhetorical levels, from depiction of character to deployment of tropes. Milton wants to show us how our fallen state corrupts and distorts our responses to poetry and instruction; the poem is constructed as a series of interlocking traps for the reader, who is lured into reacting in tempting but "wrong" ways to tropes ("with serpent error wandering") and characters (the apparently admirable Satan and his cohorts, the apparently tyrannical and odious God). The chapter on the poetics of prelapsarian Eden ("In Wandering Mazes Lost," I think it's called) is a masterpiece. Fish backs this all up with plenty of solid research into the theological doctrines Milton was known to endorse or was likely to have been familiar with.
This approach to Milton was regarded as radical when the book first came out, rather oddly, since Milton's tactics of indirection had already been noted by several critics, though not foregrounded as here. What's new is the thoroughness and clarity of the treatment, and Fish's sheer intelligence as a reader. This is criticism at its best: lucid, engaging, responsible, illuminating.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Smokiechick on September 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
He also tends to be a bit long winded. Like nearly all literary criticism, the pages wasted on explication and redundancy are boring and just plain time-consuming. His thesis is brilliant. It's obvious once he states it, but it's not anything I have ever considered. It was originally published in 1967, so his theory has been out in academia for a long time now, but this is the first time I have been confronted with his perspective on the role of the reader in _Paradise Lost_. It also, in effect, makes Milton even more brilliant. I suppose I could have gone with 5 stars, but seriously, it's literary criticism: It's hard to "Love" Lit Crit...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martin Asiner on June 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
When Fish published Surprised by Sin, he was not yet thirty. His approach to the Fall of Man took the novel twist that Milton wrote Paradise Lost not only as an epic to justify the ways of God to man but also to recreate in the mind of the reader the same twisted logic that caused Adam and Eve to stray from the path of righteousness. And as Adam was faced with numerous examples of the consequences of his flawed logic which were based on un-right reason so too was the reader who was linking his error-prone mind and morality to the erring Adam. This "un-right" reason was in Fish's estimation overly dependent on empirical thought and observation. Experience, it seems, is not always the truest guide for spiritual salvation. Fish suggests that Milton's inner reason for writing the poem was to ensure that no reader would view Adam's fall favorably. If man chose to disobey God's edicts, then man should expect nothing less than stern retribution. When God reveals even a fraction of his Divine Plan to human beings, they must treat that plan as divine revelation, unencumbered by any opposition from right reason or experience. Right reason, then actually becomes counterproductive to envisioning the One and Only Truth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Millstone on June 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stanley Fish's Milton study is somewhat academic but readable. If you're a non-scholar, as I am, you'll likely find it handy for understanding many of the subtleties of Paradise Lost.
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Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, 2nd Edition
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