Milton's Rival Hermeneutics: "Reason Is But Choosing"

Milton's Rival Hermeneutics: "Reason Is But Choosing"

Ed. by Richard J. DuRocher and Margaret Olofson Thickstun $70.00

Published in 2012 | 320 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0450-0

Book Reviews:

Milton’s Rival Hermeneutics . . . represents two major achievements: First, it exemplifies the significance and potential of the terms hermeneutics and choosing in Milton studies; second, it exemplifies the variegated nature of the responses Miltonists have to their subject. . . . Each of these eleven essays represents a competing, or rival, hermeneutics, one which contributes to the Milton dialogue. This is Milton scholarship at its best.” —Seventeenth-Century News

“This valuable collection of essays seeks to explore two main questions. What did Milton think about interpretation? And how do his works make his readers think about interpretation as they read? The volume is . . . by no means retrospective or backward-looking. Each essay freshly addresses a different question relating to the interpretation of Milton’s works or the acts of interpretation that go on within them. The overall coverage extends broadly from the early works through to Samson Agonistes and Paradise Regained.” —Milton Quarterly

“Eminent scholars such as Teskey, Wittreich, Diane McColley, Stella Revard, and many others have produced some of their best work for the occasion. A fine example of the potential benefits of intertextuality.” —SEL Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900

Book Information:

Recent critical conversation has described John Milton's major works as sites of uncertainty, irreconcilability, or even confusion — as texts that actually reflect radical incoherence and openness. These newer critical voices posit, moreover, that traditional critics must strain to find coherence and authorial control in Milton's poetry. Richard DuRocher and Margaret Thickstun, together with an esteemed group of Milton scholars from a wide range of critical and theoretical backgrounds, respond to this challenge. While accepting the presence of uncertainty and welcoming the multiple perspectives that Milton builds into his works, this volume offers a variety of nuanced approaches to Milton's texts.

As these 11 essays demonstrate, Milton's own acts of interpretation compel readers to reflect not only on the rival hermeneutics they find within his works but also on their own hermeneutic principles and choices—an interpretive complexity that is integral to his poetry's enduring appeal. Thus, each of the contributors takes up the problem of this interpretive dilemma in some way: several explore Milton's own engagement with the texts of Scripture and the classics; some examine the ways in which Milton represents the process of interpretation in his narrative poems; and still others are intrigued by the challenges that Milton's works present for the reader's own interpretive skills.

Milton's Rival Hermeneutics, in responding directly to the "incertitude critics" of Milton, will be of interest to those on all sides of this debate and will certainly redirect the ongoing conversation.

Author Information:

The late Richard J. DuRocher was professor of English at St. Olaf College and the recipient of a 2007 NEH fellowship to study Milton’s representation of the emotions. He is author of Milton and Ovid and Milton among the Romans in addition to essays on Dante, Spenser, and Bradstreet as well as Milton. DuRocher was a member of the editorial board for Milton Quarterly, a contributor to the Milton Variorum project, and general editor of the Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies series.

Margaret Olofson Thickstun is the Jane Watson Irwin Professor of English at Hamilton College and the author of Fictions of the Feminine: Puritan Doctrine and the Representation of Women and Milton’s “Paradise Lost:” Moral Education as well as articles on Bunyan, Milton, Swift, and seventeenth century women’s religious arguments.


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