Milton's Secrecy: And Philosophical Hermeneutics, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Milton's Secrecy

And Philosophical Hermeneutics, 1st Edition

By James Dougal Fleming


216 pages

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Scientific modernity treats interpretation as a matter of discovery. Discovery, however, may not be all that matters about interpretation. In Milton's Secrecy, J. D. Fleming argues that the poetry and prose of John Milton (1608-1674) are about the presentation of a radically different hermeneutic model. This is based on openness within language, rather than on secrets within the world. Milton's representations of meaning are exoteric, not esoteric; recognitive, not inventive. Milton's Secrecy places its titular subject in opposition to the epistemology of modern natural science, and to the interpretative assumptions that science supports. At the same time, the book places Milton within early modern contexts of interpretation and knowledge. Drawing on Renaissance Neoplatonism, Tudor-Stuart ideology, and the Calvinist theory of conscience, Milton's Secrecy argues that the attempt to theorize interpretation without discovery is not unorthodox within early modern English culture. If anything, Milton's hostility to secrecy and discovery aligns him with his culture's ethical and hermeneutic ideal. Milton's Secrecy provides an historical framework for considering the theoretical validity of this ideal, by aligning it with the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer.


'Superbly learned and lucid … Fleming brilliantly explores the modern logic of discovery that construes knowing as the disclosure of the secret hidden beneath surfaces and between the lines - the hermeneutic of suspicion, of scientific reductionism, of Straussian esotericism, of psychoanalysis, deconstruction, and original intent. Through a dazzling analysis of Milton's own "root-and-branch opposition to secrecy," he reconstructs the unfamiliar hermeneutics of early modern Protestantism.' Debora Shuger, UCLA; author of Censorship and Cultural Sensibility and Political Theologies in Shakespeare's England 'Fleming counters the quest to reveal the text's secret meaning - and the deconstructive skepticism that results from that quest's inevitable failure - by opening up its internal dialogue, the play of question and answer through which we recognize and respond to the words we read.' Donald Marshall, Seaver College, Pepperdine University, USA ’Fleming writes with clarity, grace, and considerable wit.’ Renaissance Quarterly 'Milton's Secrecy And Philosophical Hermeneutics will spark new debates about Milton's concernment with both esoteric and exoteric Renaissance/early-modern traditions.' Seventeenth-Century News

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Introduction: against secrecy; Expressing the conscience; The armor of intention; The armor of intension; Talking and learning in Paradise; Conclusion: secrecy again?; Works cited; Index.

About the Author

James Dougal Fleming is Assistant Professor of English at Simon Fraser University, Canada.

About the Series

Literary and Scientific Cultures of Early Modernity

Literary and Scientific Cultures of Early Modernity
For more than a decade now, Literary and Scientific Cultures of Early Modernity has provided a forum for groundbreaking work on the relations between literary and scientific discourses in Europe, during a period when both fields were in a crucial moment of historical formation. We welcome proposals that address the many overlaps between modes of imaginative writing typical of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”poetics, rhetoric, prose narrative, dramatic production, utopia”and the vocabularies, conceptual models, and intellectual methods of newly emergent 'scientific' fields such as medicine, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, psychology, mapping, mathematics, or natural history. In order to reflect the nature of intellectual inquiry during the period, the series is interdisciplinary in orientation and publishes monographs, edited collections, and selected critical editions of primary texts relevant to an understanding of the mutual implication of literary and scientific epistemologies.

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