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Providing a close examination of Milton's wide-ranging prose and poetry at each stage of his life, Barbara Lewalski reveals a rather different Milton from that in earlier accounts. Provides a close analysis of each of Milton's prose and poetry works. Reveals how Milton was the first writer to self consciously construct himself as an 'author'. Focuses on the development o Providing a close examination of Milton's wide-ranging prose and poetry at each stage of his life, Barbara Lewalski reveals a rather different Milton from that in earlier accounts. Provides a close analysis of each of Milton's prose and poetry works. Reveals how Milton was the first writer to self consciously construct himself as an 'author'. Focuses on the development of Milton's ideas and his art.


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Providing a close examination of Milton's wide-ranging prose and poetry at each stage of his life, Barbara Lewalski reveals a rather different Milton from that in earlier accounts. Provides a close analysis of each of Milton's prose and poetry works. Reveals how Milton was the first writer to self consciously construct himself as an 'author'. Focuses on the development o Providing a close examination of Milton's wide-ranging prose and poetry at each stage of his life, Barbara Lewalski reveals a rather different Milton from that in earlier accounts. Provides a close analysis of each of Milton's prose and poetry works. Reveals how Milton was the first writer to self consciously construct himself as an 'author'. Focuses on the development of Milton's ideas and his art.

30 review for The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nelson

    Will stand for some time as the readable one-volume biography of Milton. It doesn't replace Parker (which nevertheless needs replacing), but it doesn't seem intended to. These Blackwell lives claim to have a mandate to offer readable summations that avoid unnecessary scholarly carping. That's a difficult task to achieve with Milton, whose life and views invite precisely such fraught debates. Lewalski nevertheless masters a rather large body of critical material and takes positions on important i Will stand for some time as the readable one-volume biography of Milton. It doesn't replace Parker (which nevertheless needs replacing), but it doesn't seem intended to. These Blackwell lives claim to have a mandate to offer readable summations that avoid unnecessary scholarly carping. That's a difficult task to achieve with Milton, whose life and views invite precisely such fraught debates. Lewalski nevertheless masters a rather large body of critical material and takes positions on important issues without allowing the arguments to overwhelm the life. Some may take issue with the structure of the text. Chapters end with a close reading of particular texts described earlier in the chapter. While this procedure has the value of putting, say, 20 pages on Paradise Lost in one place, the fact is that the preceding chapters often discuss historical and social background in ways that necessarily lead to some discussing of the text being 'saved' for the end of the chapter. It's a tricky balancing act that sometimes leaves chapters feeling as if they are holding themselves back for the explication de texte rather than saying everything they know. In other words, if one reads this volume purely for interpretations of the poetry or prose, one will inevitably find oneself hopscotching about more than one may wish. If you have the patience to hear (some) things twice, the organization won't bother you. With a scholar as generally balanced and fair and broadly knowledgeable as Lewalski, it's worth being patient. What will absolutely try your patience, however, is the volume's utterly asinine handling of the notes. It's clear that modern print practices mandate endnotes over footnotes. But why on earth are there not sensible indicators in the Notes section, for what pages the notes are intended? The entire Notes section has the completely worthless header 'Notes'. No shit. Since Lewalski typically has hundreds of notes per chapter, one actually has to flip through a dozen pages to find out if the footnote 104 you are looking for (and mistakenly think you have found) is for chapter 13 or chapter 14 or chapter 3. Other Blackwell lives (see DeMaria's Johnson) don't do this, so why this moronic economy of ink was employed here, making the notes a pain to look through, is beyond me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    I suppose the meaning of "readable" is pretty variable, but I think the word can be applied here as long as you remember it's being used in the context of academic literary biography. In that sense, Lewalksi's biography of Milton is readable. It is equally split between discussion of Milton's personal and work life and close reading of his various literary output. The book largely avoids speculation and sticks pretty closely to the known facts. It notes academic disputes about different aspects o I suppose the meaning of "readable" is pretty variable, but I think the word can be applied here as long as you remember it's being used in the context of academic literary biography. In that sense, Lewalksi's biography of Milton is readable. It is equally split between discussion of Milton's personal and work life and close reading of his various literary output. The book largely avoids speculation and sticks pretty closely to the known facts. It notes academic disputes about different aspects of Milton's work or career without going down the rabbit hole in great detail. I think it goes without saying that you'll want to be relatively familiar with Milton's work if you hope to get much of out the close readings. And I was surprised how little of the book is dedicated to exploring Paradise Lost, the work for which Milton is of course most well-remembered. You'll also benefit if you have some broad knowledge of the history of British republicanism/Cromwell/the Restoration. The republican cause played an enormous role in Milton's life, and is explored in some depth here. Though the book is listed as around 700 pages, it is really just ("just") 550 pages of text and around 150 pages of end notes. The notes are a huge pain to read and I confess that I almost completely skipped them, though there is some good background info contained there. I'm no Milton scholar, but for my purposes, I was very satisfied with Lewalski's treatment of the subject. I feel like I have a good overview of his life and work, and a fuller understanding of the some the underpinnings of his writings.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Molly McBisterson

    This is one of the best biographies I've ever read. It is comprehensive, unbiased, and a true work of scholarship.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Spaulding

    Crazy to me how she starts in the Preface by saying that she actually likes JM. That move seemed both like heresy in the modern biographical world--where showing the 'real' side of your subject (the author), by which biographers usually mean just all the terrible things they've ever done, is all that matters and all that makes your work scholarly, rigorous, and objective--and just super endearing and sincere. Obviously no one writes a 550-page book about someone they don't like. It kinda peeled b Crazy to me how she starts in the Preface by saying that she actually likes JM. That move seemed both like heresy in the modern biographical world--where showing the 'real' side of your subject (the author), by which biographers usually mean just all the terrible things they've ever done, is all that matters and all that makes your work scholarly, rigorous, and objective--and just super endearing and sincere. Obviously no one writes a 550-page book about someone they don't like. It kinda peeled back the layers of the genre for me enough to feel comfortable and not super scholarly or pompous about being the kind of person who reads a critical biography about someone 400 years dead. It's also really cute (in a good way) whenever Lewalski has to admit one of Milton's many failures or embarrassments, how she kinda confronts the issue, then tries to talk about how other people exaggerate(d) the failure. She really likes someone who seems pretty hard to like, and she deftly strikes the balance between blind love and scholarly rigor, making the book that much more readable. The chapter structure is really nice too: starting with the major events of the chapter's time frame, then shifting into literary analysis of the works written in the same time frame. There's also a very disciplined focus on the political writing, which is just the responsible thing to do. Most people who read it (and probably Lewalski herself) are really just big fans of the poetry, so you can feel Lewalski itching to get to the poetry at the end of his life. But she's super responsible about covering the work he does for the Commonwealth, covering in vivid detail the stuff between him and More, for example, that results in the Second Defense and Pro Se Defensio. But her style is good enough that you never get bored. She helps readers understand the importance of Milton's political writing for his life and his poetry, doing her best to connect it all logically. Highly recommend to only hella Milton nerds.

  5. 5 out of 5

    17CECO

    Savored working slowly through a 500+ doorstop during perhaps the last summer of my life where I'm not doing hourly work. Appreciated also Lewalski's precision in regard to the debates surrounding the interpretation of Milton's life and text while presenting confident, concise summaries and interpretations of his works. As other reviewers have noted, it does well by not getting itself caught in the scholarly thicket that surrounds Milton's work and sticking close to what the texts and a deep and Savored working slowly through a 500+ doorstop during perhaps the last summer of my life where I'm not doing hourly work. Appreciated also Lewalski's precision in regard to the debates surrounding the interpretation of Milton's life and text while presenting confident, concise summaries and interpretations of his works. As other reviewers have noted, it does well by not getting itself caught in the scholarly thicket that surrounds Milton's work and sticking close to what the texts and a deep and broad understanding of Milton's oeuvre, life, and context support. I walked away confident that I could use this book as a backstop & springboard for some of my own scholarship where I don't have the time to read all xxx pages of whatever polemic. Still, I found myself hoping for a few more flourishes of granular detail or psychological speculation when Lewalski reaches a particularly dramatic moment in Milton's life or to map out the possibilities for those less thoroughly documented. Found, in particular, the narration of his early life and works rather rote and the context of two quite important works--Paradise Regained and Sampson Agonistes--somewhat sketchy. That aside, I'm now fascinated by the extent of Milton's work propagandizing for the republic & have this to thank for that. Appreciated also her observation that Milton scholarship has taken a conservative turn. I've read several recent dry farts of papers on Milton. They're offensive not because they're conservative but because they have to filter out so much to get to a Milton who is conservative in the way they want him to be.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Doug DePalma

    A fine and well thought out literary biography. Its ideal for those in literature who have an interest in Milton. Other than that, there are more brief and straight forward biographies (such as Forsyth's) that would better suit a general audience. I do applaud Lewalski's non-partisan survey, though. A biography of Milton could easily fall into the inter-critic warfare that is waged around Milton. It has something to offer anyone, which is the mark of a good biographical text.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Phil Mullen

    Scholarly & exhaustive -- though I found myself wishing for more richness of detail & context. Scholarly & exhaustive -- though I found myself wishing for more richness of detail & context.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Donald

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lou

  10. 5 out of 5

    Greig Roselli

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jones

  12. 4 out of 5

    K. M.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Argall Pellegrino

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell Harris

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tom Veenendaal

  17. 5 out of 5

    R. Alan Woods

  18. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  19. 4 out of 5

    John-Paul

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karissa

  21. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Landis

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Veronica Guranda

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anand

  26. 5 out of 5

    Travis

  27. 5 out of 5

    Yamo

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sestius

  29. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

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