Milton and the Ineffable

Milton and the Ineffable

by Noam Reisner
Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press


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Milton and the Ineffable

Milton and the Ineffable offers a comprehensive reassessment of Milton's poetic oeuvre in light of the literary and conceptual problem posed by the poet's attempt to put into words that which is unsayable and beyond representation. The struggle with the ineffability of sacred or transcendental subject matter in many ways defines Milton's triumphs as a poet, especially in Paradise Lost, and goes to the heart of the central critical debates to engage his readers over the centuries and decades. Taking an interdisciplinary conceptual approach, this study sheds fresh light on many of these debates by situating Milton's poetics of ineffability in the context of the intellectual cross-currents of Renaissance humanism and Protestant theology. The book plots an ongoing narrative in Milton's poetry about silence and ineffable mystery which forms the intellectual framework within which Milton continually shapes and reshapes his poetic vision of the created universe and the elect man's singular place within it. From the free paraphrase of Psalm 114 to Paradise Regained, the presence of the ineffable insinuates itself into Milton's poetry as both the catalyst and check for his poetic creativity, where the fear of silence and ineffable mystery on the one hand, and the yearning to lose himself and his readers in unspeakable rapture on the other, becomes a struggle for poetic self-determination and finally redemption.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199572625
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 01/11/2010
Series: Oxford English Monographs Series
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Noam Reisner was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1974, a dual British-Israeli national. He took his BA degree in English and Classics at Tel Aviv University and then proceeded to do graduate work in Renaissance English literature at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. After completing his Oxford D.Phil, he was appointed Plumer Research Fellow at St. Anne's College where he continued with his research on early modern literature and undertook teaching for the college. In 2008 he was awarded the Alon Scholarship for young academic researchers from Israel's Council for Higher Education and returned to Israel, where he took up a lectureship in English at Tel Aviv University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

List of Abbreviations xi

Note to the Reader xiii

Introduction 1

1 Silence and presence: ineffability in ancient and medieval Western thought 14

2 The power and illusion of words: renegotiating ineffable presence in the advent of humanism and reform 56

3 Milton's Poems 1645: the problem with soaring 105

4 Paradise Lost: pretending to say the unsayable 171

5 Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes: the ineffable self 234

Epilogue: Wittgenstein's verdict 282

Appendix: Burning Coals 287

Bibliography 288

Index 309

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