Books and Readers in Early Modern England examines readers, reading, and publication practices from the Renaissance to the Restoration. The essays draw on an array of documentary evidence--from library catalogs, prefaces, title pages and dedications, marginalia, commonplace books, and letters to ink, paper, and bindings--to explore individual reading habits and experiences in a period of religious dissent, political instability, and cultural transformation. Chapters in the volume cover oral, scribal, and print cultures, examining the emergence of the "public spheres" of reading practices. Contributors, who include Christopher Grose, Ann Hughes, David Scott Kastan, Kathleen Lynch, William Sherman, and Peter Stallybrass, investigate interactions among publishers, texts, authors, and audience. They discuss the continuity of the written word and habits of mind in the world of print, the formation and differentiation of readerships, and the increasing influence of public opinion. The work demonstrates that early modern publications appeared in a wide variety of forms--from periodical literature to polemical pamphlets--and reflected the radical transformations occurring at the time in the dissemination of knowledge through the written word. These forms were far more ephemeral, and far more widely available, than modern stereotypes of writing from this period suggest.
Scholarly criticism of John Milton's writings has in recent decades been distinguished by a methodological prudence that separates it from other forms of literary scholarship. One critic, however, stands apart from his colleagues and has consistently offered a corrective to this prudence: Balachandra Rajan. In Milton and the Climates of Reading, Elizabeth Sauer undertakes the daunting work of bringing together a selection of Rajan's essays on Milton, some hitherto unpublished, in order to chart trends and changes in Milton scholarship over the last sixty years and to consider future directions in this vital field of inquiry.This collection, which is framed by Sauer's insightful introduction and an eloquent afterword by Joseph Wittreich, demonstrates Rajan's critical range and his ability to adapt to 'new' ideas, always reformulating them in his own characteristic and individual manner. Milton and the Climates of Reading offers timely statements about the ways in which Milton's writings not only addressed their own time, but also speak profoundly and powerfully to ours.
John Milton lived at a time when English nationalism became entangled with principles and policies of cultural, religious, and ethnic tolerance. Combining political theory with close readings of key texts, this study examines how Milton's polemical and imaginative prose intersects with representations of English Protestant nationhood. Through detailed case studies of Milton's works, Elizabeth Sauer charts the fluctuating narrative of Milton's literary engagements in relation to social, political, and philosophical themes such as ecclesiology, exclusionism, Irish alterity, natural law, disestablishment, geography, and intermarriage. In so doing, Sauer shows the extent to which nationhood and toleration can be subjected to literary and historicist inquiry. Her study makes a salient contribution to Milton studies and to scholarship on early modern literature and the development of the early nation-state.
The New Milton Criticism seeks to emphasize ambivalence and discontinuity in Milton's work and interrogate the assumptions and certainties in previous Milton scholarship. Contributors to the volume move Milton's open-ended poetics to the centre of Milton studies by showing how analysing irresolvable questions - religious, philosophical and literary critical - transforms interpretation and enriches appreciation of his work. The New Milton Criticism encourages scholars to embrace uncertainties in his writings rather than attempt to explain them away. Twelve critics from a range of countries, approaches and methodologies explore these questions in these new readings of Paradise Lost and other works. Sure to become a focus of debate and controversy in the field, this volume is a truly original contribution to early modern studies.
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