Milton and the Politics of Public Speech  book cover
1st Edition

Milton and the Politics of Public Speech

ISBN 9780367879952
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
302 Pages

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Book Description

Using Hannah Arendt’s account of the Greek polis to explain Milton’s fascination with the idea of public speech, this study reveals what is distinctive about his conception of a godly, republican oratory and poetics. The book shows how Milton uses rhetorical theory - its ideas, techniques and image patterns - to dramatise the struggle between ’good’ and ’bad’ oratory, and to fashion his own model of divinely inspired public utterance. Connecting his polemical and imaginative writing in new ways, the book discusses the subliminal rhetoric at work in Milton’s political prose and the systematic scrutiny of the power of oratory in his major poetry. By setting Milton in the context of other Civil War polemicists, of classical political theory and its early modern reinterpretations, and of Renaissance writing on rhetoric and poetic language, the book sheds new light on his work across several genres, culminating in an extended Arendtian reading of his ’Greek’ drama Samson Agonistes.

Table of Contents

Milton and the idea of public speech.  'Two twins cleaving together': rhetoric and 'knowing good by evil'.  'Enchanting tongues persuasive': rhetoric and gender.  Samson the orator and the redemption of public speech.  Samson Agonistes and the temptations of romance.

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Helen Lynch is Lecturer in Early Modern Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, UK.


'This book is both a pleasure to read and a vital contribution to understanding the nature of the public sphere in seventeenth-century England. With brilliant readings of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes and Milton’s prose works, Lynch develops an account of the rhetorical experience of the political, one that does not forget the presence of the irrational, the excluded, and the feminine. In challenging the concepts of the public sphere and making use of the ideas of Hannah Arendt, rather than Jurgen Habermas, the book opens up new perspectives on the nature of public life, of rhetorical traditions, of civic activism and of the nature and uses of poetry in the early modern world.' Sharon Achinstein, The Johns Hopkins University, USA 'Lynch deserves commendation for introducing Arendt into our reflections on Milton's artistry.' Review of English Studies