Milton, Materialism, and Embodiment: One First Matter AllEd. by Kevin J. Donovan and Thomas Festa $70.00
June 2017 | cloth | ISBN 978-0-8207-0702-0 | 320 pages
Bringing together eight original essays from leading and emerging Miltonists, this volume explores a second wave of critical thought about Milton’s monist materialism, the view that all existence arises from a single substance or reality. These essays consider the consequences of materialism and embodiment for political, phenomenological, religious, and gender-oriented approaches to Milton’s writings, intersecting with major current debates in early modern studies.
The discovery of Milton’s previously lost De Doctrina Christiana in 1823 cemented the case for Milton’s systematic monist materialism in his account of Creation, but even before that, influential critics and commentators such as Thomas Newton and Samuel Johnson had remarked upon the startling and heterodox union of physics and metaphysics in Paradise Lost. What these eighteenth century critics perceived as a flaw in Milton’s design has, in recent decades, become the source of a reevaluation of the originality and coherence of Milton’s thought.
Donovan and Festa bring together a group of scholars here who explore sensory matters of fragrance and sound, the literary politics of walking and of sexual reproduction, the ontology of embodiment as human beings and angels, and the appropriation of Milton’s materialism by both early Mormons in the nineteenth century and fringe figures such as gun enthusiasts in the twentieth. In so doing, they demonstrate the ongoing relevance of Milton’s writings in the history of views of embodiment and materialist thought. This volume will be a resource for future inquiry into vitalist materialism, modern and early modern alike.
Kevin J. Donovan is professor of English and director of graduate studies at Middle Tennessee State University, where he codirected the biennial Conference on John Milton from 1991–2015. He is coeditor of the volume, Irish Drama of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, as well as a contributor and associate editor for the forthcoming King Lear: A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare.
Thomas Festa is associate professor of English at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is the author of The End of Learning: Milton and Education and coeditor of Early Modern Women on the Fall: An Anthology, which received the Best Teaching Edition Award of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women.