Academic journal article Cithara

Milton and the Poetics of Freedom

Academic journal article Cithara

Milton and the Poetics of Freedom

Article excerpt

Milton and the Poetics of Freedom. By Susanne Woods. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2013. Pp. 289. $52.20.

Woods opines that "Milton's poetics of freedom" is an "'invitational poetics' which expects and in some cases requires a thoughtful, active engagement with the ideas the text presents" (5). The core ideas that Woods refers to are free will, without which there can be no other kind of freedom, followed by liberty of thought and action. Milton necessarily parts company with the Presbyterians and other Protestant sects by insisting on freedom of the will: "Early Reformation leaders, including Luther and Calvin, were adamant that the fallen condition made salvific free will impossible" (31). His case for freedom is intrinsically poetic, shaped by the rhetoric of Miltonic eloquence and the persuasive power of metaphor.

The burning question is, "freedom for whom?" Certainly not Catholics and atheists, whom Milton, in his Areopagitica, specifically denies the right of free expression: "Not only does Milton's case for a free press exclude Catholics and atheists and allow that authors may be rightly punished for offensive writing, but its immediate impetus likely included a self-serving frustration over the licensing system's impact on his divorce tracts" (179-80). Certainly not the common people, for whom Milton had an ill-concealed contempt. Certainly not women, who are treated with elegant condescension in Milton's Divorce Tracts (although the Eve of Paradise Lost is both praised and admired). Certainly not supporters of King Charles Is*, since Milton the regicide actively campaigned for Charles's execution. When Cromwell forcibly removed supporters of the King from Parliament before the rigged Parliament "voted" for the King's execution, Milton, the apostle of freedom, stood idly by without uttering even a murmur of protest. …

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