Edited by Ronald Corthell and Thomas N. Corns
This collection of original essays by literary critics and historians analyzes a wide range of Milton’s writing, from his early poetry, through his mid-century political prose, to De Doctrina Christiana, which was unpublished in his lifetime, and finally to his last and greatest poems. The contributors investigate the rich variety of approaches to Milton’s engagement with Catholicism and its relationship to reformed religion. The essays address latent tensions and contradictions, explore the nuances of Milton’s relationship to the easy commonplaces of Protestant compatriots, and disclose the polemical strategies and tactics that often shape that engagement.
The contributors link Milton and Catholicism with early modern confessional conflicts between Catholics and Protestants that in turn led to new models and standards of authority, scholarship, and interiority. In Milton’s case, he deployed anti-Catholicism as a rhetorical device and the negative example out of which Protestants could shape their identity. The contributors argue that Milton’s anti-Catholicism aligns with his understanding of inwardness and conscience and illuminates one of the central conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in the period. Building on recent scholarship on Catholic and anti-Catholic discourses over the English Tudor and Stuart period, new understandings of martyrdom, and scholarship on Catholic women, Milton and Catholicism provides a diverse and multifaceted investigation into a complex and little-explored field in Milton studies.
Contributors: Alastair Bellany, Thomas Cogswell, Thomas N. Corns, Ronald Corthell, Angelica Duran, Martin Dzelzainis, John Flood, Estelle Haan, and Elizabeth Sauer.
“Milton engaged with Roman Catholicism in a variety of contexts and in many different ways. This diversity, however, rarely attracts comment. This is a book that fills a gap, without competitors, and one that promises to open up new lines of enquiry. It is also (as the introduction notes) in tune with a renewed scholarly interest in the cultural history of Roman Catholicism in early modern England.” — N. H. Keeble, emeritus professor, University of Stirling
“This timely and well-crafted volume breaks important new ground in showing how Milton’s responses to Catholicism are less binary, more imaginative, and more closely linked with his own poetic and national self-fashioning than has been recognized. A major new contribution to scholarly discussion of the construction of religious identity in early modern England, Milton and Catholicism should be of considerable interest and value not only to Miltonists, but to students and scholars of early modern literature, religion, politics, and culture.” — Laura L. Knoppers, Editor, Milton Studies , University of Notre Dame
“Milton’s anti-Catholicism is not a new scholarly topic, but this fine multi-faceted collection of essays not only combs that author’s poetry and prose for the strong statements and creative expressions of his religious and political opposition to a religion he defined as a non-religion unworthy of toleration, but also explores some of the poet’s more nuanced attitudes—for example, his affection for particular Italian Catholic intellectuals and his emphatically positive treatment of the Virgin Mary in Paradise Regained. Corthell and Corns have gathered a surprisingly varied group of studies that should interest both Miltonists and a broader audience of literary scholars and historians.” — Arthur F. Marotti, Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus, Wayne State University
“Milton and Catholicism shifts the focus to a stridently anti-Catholic poet and polemicist. It admits that Milton’s anti-Catholicism is a well-known topic, but explores some more nuanced aspects of the question. . . . [T]he book gives a thorough account . . . of his ‘ideologically impassioned’ hostility.” — Times Literary Supplement