John Milton: "Reasoning Words"

John Milton: "Reasoning Words"

John Milton: "Reasoning Words"

John Milton: "Reasoning Words"

Synopsis

In book 9 of Paradise Lost near the end of what is generally referred to as the separation scene, Eve speaks of Adam's reasoning words (379) as she prepares to leave her husband's side to garden alone. For a writer who focused on the importance of debate and the consequences of choices in his three major epics--Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes--and who depicted the awesome power of temptation in poetry and prose alike, Milton consistently argued that God... trusts his created being] with the gift of reason to be his own chooser (Areopagitica), whether that chooser be Satan, Eve, Adam, the Son, the English people, the reader, or Milton himself. As he states in Of Education, language is but the instrument conveying to us things useful to be known (631). While the ten essays that make up this collection are intentionally diverse in subject matter, emphasis, and approach, what unifies them is a common interest in aspects of language, or, as the title suggests, reasoning words. Charles W. Durham is Professor Emeritus of English at Middle Tennessee State University. Kristin A. Pruitt is Professor Emerita of English at Christian Brothers University.

Excerpt

Kristin A. Pruitt and Charles W. Durham

In book 9 of paradise lost near the end of what is generally REferred to as the separation scene, Eve speaks of Adam’s “reasoning words” (line 379) as she prepares to leave her husband’s side to garden alone. For a writer who focused on the importance of debate and the consequences of choice in his three major works—Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes—and who depicted the awesome power of temptation in poetry and prose alike, Milton consistently argued that “God … trusts [his created being] with the gift of reason to be his own chooser” (Areopagitica, 727), whether that chooser be Satan, Eve, Adam, the Son, the English people, the reader, or Milton himself. As he states in Of Education, “[L]anguage is but the instrument conveying to us things useful to be known” (631). While the ten essays that make up this collection are intentionally diverse in subject matter, emphasis, and approach, what unifies them is a common interest in aspects of language, or, as our title suggests, “reasoning words.”

In “Milton, Globalization, and the Possibilities of Positive Nationalism,” Paul Stevens explores the concept of nationalism in the context of seventeenth-century England and questions “the credibility of the recent argument that the use of terms such as ‘nationalist’ and ‘nationalism’ in relation to Milton’s England is anachronistic.” He maintains that “[t]he principal aim of [his] essay is not only to suggest the legitimacy of studying Milton in the context of early modern nationalism but to make two further arguments: first, to suggest the importance of the political work of literary criticism … and second, to suggest how Milton’s thinking about the nation might illuminate the present-day possibilities of positive or civic nationalism, especially in the context of globalization.” According to Stevens, “so much of the cultural analysis that literary critics now do has the potential to bridge the gap between academic and public discourse and so enrich the latter. in particular, [he wants] to em-

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