A (Belated) Celebration of Milton’s 400th Birthday
John Milton’s Life
Stephen Fallon, University of Notre Dame
Living during the tumultuous period of the English Civil War, Milton devoted his life and work to liberty in three spheres: the church, the family, and the state. As the Latin secretary of state to Oliver Cromwell he expressed the values of republicanism, and his writings include critiques of tyranny. His life was threatened when the Commonwealth project collapsed, but he was spared and began writing his major poetic works, in blindness and defeat, after his hopes for a better England had been dashed.
John Milton and Politics
Feisal Mohamed, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The political work of Milton includes many tracts that focus on liberty: liberty from church authority, from the tyranny of custom, and from the tyranny of monarchy. He defends freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, and crafts passionate defenses of political freedom.
John Milton and Religion
David Loewenstein, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Living during not only England’s seventeenth-century experiment with republicanism, but also during the English Reformation, Milton took radical stances on the key religious controversies of the day. These include contested questions of religious authority, toleration, doctrine, and faith.
John Milton’s Poetry
Regina Schwartz, Northwestern University
While Milton aspired to be a poet in his youth, it was only after his deep engagement with England’s politics that he began to compose his three major epics, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. They show not only his impressive biblical and classical learning, but also an imaginative vision that has led many critics to describe him as prophetic. Paradise Lost takes up profound questions about obedience and freedom, good and evil, love and loss.
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