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How Milton Works. Title: How Milton Works. Authors: Fish, Stanley.
Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin, first published in 1967, set a new standard for Milton criticism and established its author as one of the world's preeminent Milton scholars. The lifelong engagement begun in that work culminates in this book, the magnum opus of a formidable critic and the definitive statement on Milton for our time. How Milton works "from the inside out" is the foremost concern of Fish's book, which explores the radical effect of Milton's theological convictions on his poetry and prose. For Milton the value of a poem or of any other production derives from the inner worth of its author and not from any external measure of excellence or heroism. Milton's aesthetic, says Fish, is an "aesthetic of testimony": every action, whether verbal or physical, is or should be the action of holding fast to a single saving commitment against the allure of plot, narrative, representation, signs, drama--anything that might be construed as an illegitimate supplement to divine truth. Much of the energy of Milton's writing, according to Fish, comes from the effort to maintain his faith against these temptations, temptations which in any other aesthetic would be seen as the very essence of poetic value. Encountering the great poet on his own terms, engaging his equally distinguished admirers and detractors, this book moves a 300-year debate about the significance of Milton's verse to a new level.
Harvard University Press
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Table of Content
Introduction I. The Miltonic Paradigm How Milton Works Milton's Aesthetic of Testimony Problem Solving in Comus Unblemished Form II. The Paradigm under the Pressure of Time, Interpretation, and Death Driving from the Letter: Truth and Indeterminacy in Milton's Areopagitica Wanting a Supplement: The Question of Interpretation in Milton's Early Prose Lycidas: A Poem Finally Anonymous With Mortal Voice: Milton Defends against the Muse III. The Counter-Paradigm The Temptation to Action The Temptation of Speech The Temptation of Plot The Temptation of Understanding The Temptation of Intelligibility IV. The Paradigm Reaffirmed (Almost) without Apology Gently Raised "On Other Surety None" Epilogue: The Temptation of History and Politics Notes Credits Index
Stanley Eugene Fish
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How Milton Works is written to arrest our backsliding and restore us to the true path of Milton criticism. [It] ranges widely over Milton's verse and prose in the service of a single thesis: that his work "stakes everything on an inner resolution supported by nothing but itself"...[It] is brilliantly argued and musters a lifetime's weight of example. It deserves to be widely read. By its own rules, however, the one thing it cannot be is the final word., Fish helps us re-see Milton's immense power of words through his deft analyses of the epics, lesser poems, and every major work of prose...He is "Deep verst in books," and certainly not "shallow in himself" (to borrow Christ's line in Paradise Regained). How Milton Works is a book of marvels, of complex argument, of interwoven sources both ancient and modern, of subtle judgments--in short, a work well worth the effort of reading; and especially so because the intelligence of its insights provokes an understanding one almost feels as an echo of thoughts already experienced: "What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd, Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, That gives us back the image of our mind" (Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism)., How Milton Works is a remarkable exercise in a critical method of which Fish is virtually the unique exponent. It might be called 'forensic' criticism. Throughout its considerable length his book devotes itself withunflagging energy to the defense of a particular view of the poet, and to the refutation of all views that are not concordant with it, including, on occasion, Milton's own., Nearly 35 years after the publication of Fish's first landmark study comes this culmination of his lifetime of Milton scholarship...[Fish] shows himself to be a truly passionate critic, immersing himself in the texts...to explicate the remarkable philosophy that animates and informs them...What is at stake here is not artistic but moral truth and, implicitly, what Milton's radical vision might have to tell our own age. With forcefulness, fluency, and persistence, Fish succeeds in making his case and honoring his subject: a definitive work., Stanley Fish composes in what seventeenth-century writers called the "masculine style" or the "strong line." His sentences close shut like a trap; they give no quarter, demanding a reader's instant salute rather than consent. Reading him is like being taken for a walk by a Rottweiler: You can pull back on the leash as hard as you want, but the direction is relentlessly forward...Fish brings out the gamesmanship in intellectual work., Fish argues that Milton's works teach the reader how tempters and temptations--through inexhaustible variety and innumerable permutations--operate in the world. Like Fish's Surprised by Sin the present work exemplifies reader-response criticism at its best. Clearly written, cogently argued, often brilliant, always interesting, this book takes its place among the finest commentaries on Milton in the last several decades. Essential reading., Fish gives us a premodern Milton, in which every element--vocabulary, syntax, line breaks--is directed from "the inside out" toward divine truth. Milton scholars will definitely have their summer reading cut out for them, but any reader interested in tracking an encounter across time-of one bottomlessly inquisitive, endlessly skeptical 17th-century mind with a similarly oriented, 21st-century critic idiosyncratically charged with belief-would be advised to stash this volume in their beach bag., Acclaimed for more than 30 years as a great Milton critic, Fish still has much to teach. Here he dispels the confusion fostered in recent years by critics eager to convert the famed Puritan poet into a conflicted modern liberal, working out the tensions of his divided psyche in the drama of his spectacular art. Fish releases Milton from this Procrustean bed by restoring his integrity as a writer whose works expressed the timeless serenity of theological conviction...Though unfashionable, Fish's thesis proves remarkably luminous in explaining a wide range of Milton texts, from his sublime Paradise Lost to his polemical tracts. A masterful study indispensable for anyone who reads Milton., How Milton Works is a tremendously impressive and important book for Miltonists--important because of the sustained originality of the argument, the sharpness of some of its textual analysis, and because it will become a standard reference point with which to align oneself by proximity or remoteness.