Monday, June 16, 2008

Rosen, Jonathan. "Return to Paradise: the Enduring Relevance of John Milton." NEW YORKER June 2, 2008.

This year is the four-hundredth anniversary of Milton’s birth, and there are a host of Milton books to mark the occasion: the Modern Library has brought out The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose, edited by William Kerrigan, John Rumrich, and Stephen M. Fallon, and not long ago Oxford University Press published an edition of Paradise Lost introduced by Philip Pullman, whose young-adult trilogy His Dark Materials draws its title and much of its mythic energy from Paradise Lost. (Titles involving sight and blindness often come from Milton: Look Homeward, Angel, Eyeless in Gaza, Darkness at Noon, Darkness Visible.) There is a new edition of Paradise Lost edited by the scholar Barbara Lewalski, whose monumental biography of the poet came out a few years ago, and Oxford is launching an eleven-volume series of all Milton’s works, edited by Thomas Corns and Gordon Campbell. Corns and Campbell are also jointly publishing a biography of Milton in time for the birthday, later this year, and Corns is editing The Milton Encyclopedia, for Yale University Press. A new critical study by the Princeton scholar Nigel Smith bears the provocative title Is Milton Better Than Shakespeare?, and there has been a recent spate of books with titles like Why Milton Matters and Milton in Popular Culture, pointing out Milton’s influence on everyone from Malcolm X, who read Paradise Lost in prison and identified with Satan, to Helen Keller, who created the John Milton Society for the Blind. Milton in Popular Culture reminds the reader that in the movie Animal House, Donald Sutherland’s Professor Jennings gives a lecture on Paradise Lost, taking a bite of an apple as he suggests that the Devil has more fun, before confessing to his unresponsive students that even “Mrs. Milton found Milton boring,” and so does he. . . . Read the rest here:

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