To Repair the Ruins: Reading MiltonEd. by Mary C. Fenton and Louis Schwartz $58.00
Published in 2012 | 290 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0454-8
“This collection [of essays] brings welcome attention to Milton’s poetry, its sources and contexts, the models of reading that it espouses, and the impact it has exerted on readers and artists over time. . . . As a snapshot of recent work by both junior and senior scholars in the field, To Repair the Ruins speaks to the methodological vigor, diversity, and eclecticism of American Milton studies today.” —Seventeenth-Century News
Recent John Milton scholarship has seen a revival of interest in the practice of close reading: historically and theoretically informed attention to the author’s poetic and rhetorical style. Responding to this emerging trend, To Repair the Ruins examines how close reading functions as an act of recovery, an attempt to close the gap between past and present, or as an act of repair that uses the past to reenvision a ruined or fallen present.
In this volume’s 12 essays, esteemed scholars offer fresh perspectives on the significance of close reading for Milton criticism, presenting both new topics in Milton studies and new ways to read and think about previously considered topics. Part 1 of the book calls for revival—for a return to close reading, an exploration of Milton’s undervalued Latin poems, and a reexamination of neglected aspects of Paradise Lost. Part 2 analyzes Milton’s understanding of inward experience and the relationship between reading, self-reflection, and action. Part 3 explores the historical record—medieval Catholicism, Milton’s biography, and seventeenth century religious conflicts—to shed light on forgotten or obscured details central to the meaning of particular texts. Finally, part 4 assesses not merely the author’s reception history, but also the ways in which Milton’s work has been used to address the concerns and even amend the problems of later readers—from politicians to visual artists to prisoners.
Each chapter, in one way or another, attempts to bridge the gap between literary and historical studies—between the delight we may take in the beauty, in the unstable, sometimes bewildering proliferation of meanings we encounter in a poem, and the worldly commitments of an author trying to prosecute arguments in a world of policy and ideological or theological conflict.
A significant contribution to Milton studies, To Repair the Ruins will also be of interest to scholars concerned with general discussions of close reading, as well as Protestant revisionist poetics, art, environment, and devotional practice.
Alison A. Chapman
Giuseppina Iacono Lobo
Sara van den Berg
MARY C. FENTON is a professor of English at Western Carolina University.
LOUIS SCHWARTZ is a professor of English at the University of Richmond.