Milton and MonotheismAbraham Stoll $60.00
Published in 2009 | 350 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0410-4
“An intriguing analysis of God in Milton's writings (and in a way, fiction in general), Milton and Monotheism is recommended for readers who want a greater understanding of Milton's work, as well as college and community library literary studies collections.” — The Midwest Book Review
“Milton and Monotheism is an extraordinary achievement, one that offers a fascinating and brilliantly illuminating account of how theology demands narrative and how narrative stands in tension with theology. Beautifully written, compellingly argued, Stoll's work offers new insights into crucial matters of theodicy, doctrine, and representation in Milton's poetry.” ⎯ Jeffrey Shoulson, University of Miami
Although monotheism is at least as old as the Hebrew Bible, in the seventeenth century it received particular attention among philosophers and rational theologians. Within the writings of such figures as John Selden, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, and Henry More, and amid emerging Socinian and deist thought, official religion in England was increasingly defined according to the notion of a single God. In this compelling study⎯illuminating reading for literary scholars and religious scholars alike⎯Abraham Stoll examines Milton's poetry in the context of these debates swirling around polytheism and monotheism.
While writing Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes with a keen awareness of monotheism, Milton is faced with serious issues for his narratives. From the classical, polytheistic conventions of the Greek epic tradition, Milton inherits divine councils, invocations, and a cosmic scope; but he is also attempting to represent a God who is omniscient and omnipotent, who resists images and personality, and who thus cannot fit the minimal requirements of plot. Negotiating these problems, Milton's monotheistic narratives must question the Trinity, depict polytheistic gods, and ultimately challenge the notion of revelation itself. Yet monotheism also describes how Milton pulls back from the extremes of rational religion to maintain the revealed God of the Bible, forging a unique version of Christianity.
As Stoll points out, poetry and theology are too often understood separately, which is especially damaging for the study of Milton, whose poems are retellings of biblical stories. Milton and Monotheism demonstrates the profound differences between doctrinal discourse and narrative poetry and how neither is, individually, able to fully represent Milton's monotheism⎯or, as Stoll says, “a God of flickering subjectivity.
ABRAHAM STOLL is associate professor of English at the University of San Diego. He was a Mellon Prize Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, and he has received research fellowships at the Huntington and Folger libraries. Stoll is also the general editor of the five-volume edition of The Faerie Queene, and editor of book 5.