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Surprised by Sin

Surprised by Sin

The Reader in Paradise Lost, Second Edition with a New Preface

Stanley Fish

ISBN 9780674857476

Publication date: 03/15/1998

In 1967 the world of Milton studies was divided into two armed camps: one proclaiming (in the tradition of Blake and Shelley) that Milton was of the devil's party with or without knowing it, the other proclaiming (in the tradition of Addison and C. S. Lewis) that the poet's sympathies are obviously with God and the angels loyal to him.

The achievement of Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin was to reconcile the two camps by subsuming their claims in a single overarching thesis: Paradise Lost is a poem about how its readers came to be the way they are--that is, fallen--and the poem's lesson is proven on a reader's impulse every time he or she finds a devilish action attractive or a godly action dismaying.

Fish's argument reshaped the face of Milton studies; thirty years later the issues raised in Surprised by Sin continue to set the agenda and drive debate.

Praise

  • Thirty years after its original publication. Surprised by Sin remains the one indispensable book on Milton. This dazzling, high-stakes work of mind taught a generation of readers how to read anew. And, lest we thought its rigorous injunctions had been dulled or blandly assimilated by the intervening years, Fish dares us, in a formidable new preface, to think again.

    —Linda Gregerson, University of Michigan

Author

  • Stanley Fish is Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Law at Florida International University. His many books include There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech: And It’s a Good Thing, Too.

Book Details

  • 440 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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