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Milton's Paradise Lost Paperback – February 28, 2013
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“Ryken is a warm and welcoming guide to the classics of Western literature. The books in this series distill complex works into engaging and relevant commentaries, and help twenty-first-century readers understand what the classics are, how to read them, and why they continue to matter.”
—Andrew Logemann, Chair, Department of English, Gordon College
“Students, teachers, homeschoolers, general readers, and even seasoned literature professors like me will find these Christian guides to classic works of literature invaluable. They demonstrate just what is so great about these ‘great books’ and illuminate their meanings in light of Christian truth. Reading these books along with the masterpieces they accompany is a literary education in itself, and there can be few better tutors and reading companions than Leland Ryken, a master Christian scholar and teacher.”
—Gene Edward Veith Jr., Provost and Professor of Literature, Patrick Henry College; Director, Cranach Institute, Concordia Theological Seminary
“The Classics are peaks I’ve always wanted to climb, but never had the chutzpah to tackle. I often find myself, as a result, admiring these beauties from afar, wondering if I’ll ever dare an ascent and one day enjoy their views. That’s why I’m delighted to see the release of Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics. Now, I’ve got a boost to my confidence, a feasible course in front of me, and a world-class guide to assist along the way. In fact, Dr. Leland Ryken could scale these peaks in his sleep, having, for decades now, guided hundreds of students to a greater appreciation for the Classics. Lee combines scholarly acumen and Christian faith with uncluttered thinking and crystal-clear style in a way that virtually guarantees no one will get tangled-up in woods or wander off trail. The Classics are now within reach! I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this series!”
—Todd Wilson, Senior Pastor, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois; author, Real Christian and The Pastor Theologian
“In an age when many elite universities have moved away from the classics, this series will help re-focus students and teachers on the essential works of the canon. More importantly, it will help present the classics from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian worldview upon which the university was built. These guides offer exactly the kind of resources needed to empower high school and college students (whether in public, private, classical-Christian, or home schools) to connect with the Great Books and to ask the kinds of questions that we all must ask if we are to understand our full status as creatures made in the image of God who have fallen but who can be redeemed.”
—Louis Markos, Professor of English, Scholar in Residence, and Robert H. Ray Chair of Humanities, Houston Baptist University; author, Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C. S. Lewis
“It is hard to imagine a better guide than Leland Ryken to help readers navigate the classics. In an age in desperate need of recovering the permanent things, I am thankful that Crossway and Ryken have teamed up to produce excellent guides to help Christians take up and read the books which have shaped the western intellectual tradition.”
—Bradley G. Green, Associate Professor of Christian Thought and Tradition, Union University; writer-in-residence, Tyndale House, Cambridge
“The Christian Guides to the Classics series by Leland Ryken will be a helpful addition to the library of anyone interested in a deeper understanding of classic literature. I can’t help but think that these guides will give us more pleasure and satisfaction from our reading than we would otherwise have. And best of all, we will be better equipped to successfully engage with the ideas and worldviews we come across in our reading. That’s a goal worth pursuing.”
—Jonathan Lewis, Editor, Home School Enrichment, Inc.
About the Author
Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly 50 years. He has authored or edited over fifty books, including The Word of God in English and A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible. He is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Theological Society's annual meetings and served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible.
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Top Customer Reviews
Everything about the class was a unique experience, from what was taught to the way it was taught. In my other English classes, Reader Response Theory ruled the day and assigned readings consisted of novels like Loving Che, The Gifts of the Body and The Bus: Cosmic Ejaculations of a Mind in Transit. An opportunity, then, to examine Paradise Lost slowly, over the course of a semester and in a more teacher-directed fashion, was a particularly welcome change of scenery.
It was a pleasure to revisit Paradise Lost nearly ten years after my first encounter with it, this time, with a different guide. Leland Ryken's Milton's Paradise Lost is a very engaging and accessible companion to the epic poem. Just shy of a hundred pages and very reader-friendly, Ryken's guide does more than simply summarize the contents of Paradise Lost. It also does literary criticism in such a way that both novice and seasoned readers of Paradise Lost can glean something from its pages.
Here is what I appreciated most: Ryken's guide is more than just a "Christian take" on Paradise Lost. Rather, he argues very persuasively that "the Christian take" is the take, the only coherent take. In other words, there is no way to divorce Milton's theology from Milton's art. After all, Milton's own stated goal in writing the epic poem is "to justify the ways of God to men." Ryken's thesis is very relevant, given that secular, revisionist interpretations of Paradise Lost currently hold center stage in academia. The so-called "Satanists," admirers of Milton's Satan, represent one strand of revisionist scholars that claims Milton meant for Satan to be the true hero of the story. Ryken actively refutes this interpretation of Milton's intentions, demonstrating instead that Milton uses the character of Satan to act as a mirror to the reader's own soul. The extent to which we admire and empathize with Satan is the extent to which we have turned our own backs on a good and just God. Milton's goal is to shed light on our covert inclinations toward evil, a phenomenon Ryken refers to as "the guilty reader." Yes, at times we do empathize with Milton's Satan, but that's not a good thing.
Other fascinating topics include the ways in which Milton both affirms and undermines the traditional epic motif by "Christianizing" it, the degree to which Adam and Eve's life in Paradise mirrors Puritan ideals about worship, marriage and work and Milton's theodicy, which Ryken defines as "reconciling God's goodness toward the human race with the fact of evil and suffering in the world."
Readers who already love literature in general and Paradise Lost specifically will find a kindred spirit in Ryken. In describing the process of reading the epic poem, he uses the word "relish" on more than one occasion. And reluctant readers might at last find a compelling reason to read more often.