Cover: How Milton Works, from Harvard University PressCover: How Milton Works in PAPERBACK

How Milton Works

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Product Details

PAPERBACK

$57.00 • £45.95 • €51.50

ISBN 9780674012332

Publication Date: 10/15/2003

Short

640 pages

5-11/16 x 8-7/8 inches

Belknap Press

World

How Milton Works is a remarkable exercise in a critical method of which Fish is virtually the unique exponent. It might be called ‘forensic’ criticism. Throughout its considerable length his book devotes itself with unflagging energy to the defense of a particular view of the poet, and to the refutation of all views that are not concordant with it, including, on occasion, Milton’s own.—Frank Kermode, The New York Times Book Review

How Milton Works is written to arrest our backsliding and restore us to the true path of Milton criticism. [It] ranges widely over Milton’s verse and prose in the service of a single thesis: that his work ‘stakes everything on an inner resolution supported by nothing but itself’… [It] is brilliantly argued and musters a lifetime’s weight of example. It deserves to be widely read. By its own rules, however, the one thing it cannot be is the final word.—Jeff Dolven, The Chicago Tribune

How Milton Works is a tremendously impressive and important book for Miltonists—important because of the sustained originality of the argument, the sharpness of some of its textual analysis, and because it will become a standard reference point with which to align oneself by proximity or remoteness.—Joad Raymond, The Times Higher Education Supplement

Fish helps us re-see Milton’s immense power of words through his deft analyses of the epics, lesser poems, and every major work of prose… He is ‘Deep verst in books,’ and certainly not ‘shallow in himself’ (to borrow Christ’s line in Paradise Regained). How Milton Works is a book of marvels, of complex argument, of interwoven sources both ancient and modern, of subtle judgments—in short, a work well worth the effort of reading; and especially so because the intelligence of its insights provokes an understanding one almost feels as an echo of thoughts already experienced: ‘What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d, Something, whose truth convinc’d at sight we find, That gives us back the image of our mind’ (Alexander Pope, ‘Essay on Criticism’).—Larry R. Isitt, Christianity and Literature

Stanley Fish composes in what seventeenth-century writers called the ‘masculine style’ or the ‘strong line.’ His sentences close shut like a trap; they give no quarter, demanding a reader’s instant salute rather than consent. Reading him is like being taken for a walk by a Rottweiler: You can pull back on the leash as hard as you want, but the direction is relentlessly forward… Fish brings out the gamesmanship in intellectual work.—Peggy Samuels, Common Review

Acclaimed for more than 30 years as a great Milton critic, Fish still has much to teach. Here he dispels the confusion fostered in recent years by critics eager to convert the famed Puritan poet into a conflicted modern liberal, working out the tensions of his divided psyche in the drama of his spectacular art. Fish releases Milton from this Procrustean bed by restoring his integrity as a writer whose works expressed the timeless serenity of theological conviction… Though unfashionable, Fish’s thesis proves remarkably luminous in explaining a wide range of Milton texts, from his sublime Paradise Lost to his polemical tracts. A masterful study indispensable for anyone who reads Milton.—Bryce Christensen, Booklist

Fish argues that Milton’s works teach the reader how tempters and temptations—through inexhaustible variety and innumerable permutations—operate in the world. Like Fish’s Surprised by Sin the present work exemplifies reader-response criticism at its best. Clearly written, cogently argued, often brilliant, always interesting, this book takes its place among the finest commentaries on Milton in the last several decades. Essential reading.—A.C. Labriola, Choice

Nearly 35 years after the publication of Fish’s first landmark study comes this culmination of his lifetime of Milton scholarship… [Fish] shows himself to be a truly passionate critic, immersing himself in the texts…to explicate the remarkable philosophy that animates and informs them… What is at stake here is not artistic but moral truth and, implicitly, what Milton’s radical vision might have to tell our own age. With forcefulness, fluency, and persistence, Fish succeeds in making his case and honoring his subject: a definitive work.Kirkus Reviews

Fish gives us a premodern Milton, in which every element—vocabulary, syntax, line breaks—is directed from ‘the inside out’ toward divine truth. Milton scholars will definitely have their summer reading cut out for them, but any reader interested in tracking an encounter across time—of one bottomlessly inquisitive, endlessly skeptical 17th-century mind with a similarly oriented, 21st-century critic idiosyncratically charged with belief—would be advised to stash this volume in their beach bag.Publishers Weekly

How Milton Works is a dazzling, rigorous, and unutterably strange attempt to follow the great seventeenth-century poet along the perilous path that leads away from the temptations of history and politics and into the fair fields of eternal Truth. Why strange? Because the book depends upon a perfect congruence between the fathomless faith of John Milton and the fathomless skepticism of Stanley Fish.—Stephen Greenblatt, author of Hamlet in Purgatory

Stanley Fish still tempts us with an uncompromising, utterly undivided, un-Romantic Milton, who honors the beauty and fertility of the created world—and the creative powers of poetic or other kinds of self-regard—yet whose moral one-liners reject the slightest tendency toward an idolatrous displacement of creator by creature. In its close, illuminating, and iconoclastic readings of Milton’s entire career as poet and doctrinal thinker, How Milton Works crowns Fish’s own career.—Geoffrey Hartman, author of A Critic’s Journey: Literary Reflections, 1958–1998

Admirers of Stanley Fish and his work will not be disappointed by the long-awaited Milton book, which posits theology as the foliation of style, syntax as the miniaturized performance of theology. It is a performance worthy of the Russian Formalists at their most concentrated and will open up all kinds of new questions, about literature fully as much as about the great revolutionary poet.—Fredric Jameson, author of Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

Stanley Fish needs no recommendation to the community of Milton scholars. This will be the indispensable book on Milton for all succeeding generations.—Victoria Kahn, author of Rhetoric, Prudence, and Skepticism in the Renaissance

I cannot think of a more impressive work of literary interpretation published in the past forty or so years. As a close reader—of just about anything—Stanley Fish has no peer.—Frank Lentricchia, author of After the New Criticism

In How Milton Works, Stanley Fish defends his title as the reigning specialist on Milton by taking on all critical challengers single-handed. This forcefully and lucidly argued book is necessary both for readers and scholars of Milton, and for readers interested to see how Fish works at the height of his literary and rhetorical powers.—Elaine Showalter, author of A Literature of Their Own

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