Milton's Poetry of Independence

George H. McLoone

Five Studies

160 pages
ISBN 0-8387-5403-1

John Milton's vocation was that of a great poet, but he stood on the field of ecclesiastical and political controversy throughout his writing career. Milton's Poetry of Independence examines patterns of ecclesiological and affective imagery in five poems by Milton. The book shows how Milton's ecclesiastical noncomformity, his Puritan Independency, had important uses in his poetic art.

In an original approach to Milton criticism, George H. McLoone provides close readings of Lycidas, the Twenty-Third Sonnet, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regain'd, and Samson Agonistes by focusing on their simultaneous patterns of ecclesiological allusion and affective imagery. In McLoone's analysis, images of the church in the poetry are regarded as complex symbols expressing a dramatic psychology of religion, an affective realm complemented by the subjective Protestantism of Puritan Independency. Here, in Milton's poetry of independence, the provacations of establishmentarian authority are answered by the emerging consciousness of the true believer, one willing to confront a cultural heritage of egoism and sin both in the self and in the visible church.

The main themes of the book, its topical background and critical methods are outlined in the introduction. Five studies, each concentrating on one or two poems, follow: "Hurled Bones and the Noble Mind," an analysis of Lycidas, relates the corporal figure of the drowned sheperd in the poem to the essential identity of the reformed church as construed by Puritan Independents. "Love, Death, and the Communion of Saints" shows how the psychology of guilt in the Twenty-Third Sonnet authenticates the grieving speaker's memebership in this essential, mystical body of the church. "Sad Faith and the Solitary Way" regards Adam and Eve after the fall in Paradise Lost as a paradigm of Independent Congregationalism, a theme also developed in the essay on Paradise Regain'd, "The Unobserved Kingdom." The final essay, "True Religion and Tragedy," contrasts Milton's epic allusions to right-minded Protestantism in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regain'd with the establishmentarian tendencies of his tragic characters in Samson Agonistes.

About the author:

A graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Virginia, George H. McLoone received his doctorate in English from The George Washington University where he studied with Edward Weismiller, Jon Quitslund, and the late John Reesing. In 1985, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to attend its summer institute on Paradise Lost at Arizona State University with John Shawcross as principal lecturer. Professor mcLoone's publications include articles on Milton in Milton Studies, The Milton Quarterly, and Mosaic. He is currently Professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College and resides in Great Falls, Virginia.


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