Milton's Leveller God

Milton's Leveller God

by David A. Williams


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Three and a half centuries after Paradise Lost and Paradise Regain?d were written, do Milton?s epic poems still resonate with contemporary concerns? In Milton?s Leveller God, David Williams advances a progressive and democratic interpretation of Milton?s epics to show they are more relevant than ever. Exploring two blind spots in the critical tradition ? the failure to read Milton?s poetry as drama and to recognize his depictions of heaven?s political and social evolution ? Williams reads Milton?s ?great argument? as a rejection of social hierarchy and of patriarchal government that is more attuned to the radical political thought developed by the Levellers during the English Revolution. He traces echoes between Milton?s texts and thousands of pages of Leveller writings that advocated for popular rule, extended suffrage, and religious tolerance, arguing that Milton?s God is still the unacknowledged ground of popular sovereignty. Williams demonstrates that Milton?s Leveller sympathies, expressed in his early prose, conflicted with his official duties for Oliver Cromwell?s government in the 1650s, but his association with the journalist Marchamont Nedham later freed him to imagine an egalitarian republic. In a work that connects the great epic poet in new ways to the politics of his time and our own, Milton?s Leveller God shows how the political landscape of Milton?s work fundamentally unsettles ancient hierarchies of soul and body, man and woman, reason and will, and ruler and ruled.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780773550346
Publisher: McGill-Queens University Press
Publication date: 06/01/2017
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

David Williams is professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

A Note on Archival Sources, Abbreviations, and Spellings xvii

Introduction 3

Part I A Levelling History

1 The Levellers and the Council of State: Fateful Choices 33

2 Milton and Politicus: Deposing Cromwell 64

Part II Paradise Lost

3 "The Tyranny of Heaven": Republican Language in Hell 105

4 "The Great Consult": From Putney to Pandemonium 126

5 "All Power I Give Thee": Kingdom of Grace 151

6 "Two of Far Nobler Shape": Naked Majesty 169

7 "The Winged Hierarch": Ironies of Degree 191

8 "Behold the Excellence": Might and Right 211

9 "And Thence Diffuse His Good": God and Matter 231

10 "Among Unequals What Societie?": The Republic of Love 249

11 "Here Grows the Cure of All": Viral Hierarchies 271

12 "To Her Own Inclining Left": Judgment and Regeneration 300

13 "Brought Down to Dwell on Eeven Ground": Fathers and Sons 321

14 "So God with Man Unites": A Levelling Incarnation 334

Part III Paradise Regain'd

15 "Searching What Was Writ": The Foxean Reader 351

16 "Also It Is Written": The Flesh Made Word 367

Conclusion 388

Notes 391

Index 473

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