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Milton's Messiah

Milton's Messiah provides the first comprehensive book-length analysis of the nature and significance of the Son of God in Milton's poetry and theology. The book engages with Biblical and Patristic theology, Reformation and post-Reformation thought, and the original Latin of the treatise De Doctrina Christiana, to argue for a radical reassessment of Milton's doctrine of the atonement and its importance for understanding Milton's poetics. In the footsteps of Dennis Danielson's Milton's Good God, this study responds to William Empson's celebrated portrayal of Milton's God as a deity invoking dread and awe, and instead locates the ultimately affirming presence of mercy, grace, and charity in Milton's epic vision. Challenging the attribution of an Arian or Socinian model to Milton's conception of the Son, this interdisciplinary interpretation marshals theological, philological, philosophical, and literary-critical methods to establish, for the first time, not only the centrality of the Son and his salvific office for Milton's oeuvre, but also the variety of ways in which the Son's restorative influence is mediated through the scenes, characters, actions, and utterances of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regain'd. From the allegorical sites Satan encounters as he voyages through the cosmos, to Eve's first taste of the Forbidden Fruit, to the incarnate Son's perilous situation poised atop the Temple pinnacle, Hillier illustrates how a redemptive poetics upholds Milton's proclaimed purpose to assert eternal providence and justify God's ways. This original study should court debate and controversy alike over Milton's priorities as a poet and a religious thinker.
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About the Author

Russell M. Hillier was born in the West Country of England. He took his BA and MA degrees in Classics and English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, and in 2008 he completed his Ph.D at Selwyn College, Cambridge University. He has published numerous articles in journals that include Milton Quarterly, Milton Studies, Studies in English Literature, and Studies in Philology, on writers as diverse as John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Cormac McCarthy. He is currently Assistant Professor of English at Providence College, Rhode Island.


Hillier is a brilliant scholar who is attentive to the precise meaning of concepts and words in the English Renaissance and successfully makes use of the poet's interlingual puns in Paradise Lost. Hillier's argument - the centrality of the atonement in Milton's works - carries conviction, and this important and tightly argued study will prove a formidable opponent to the Empson-approach to Milton. * Jan Marten Ivo Klaver, Heythrop Journal * Most striking about Hillier.'s analysis is his excellent use of Milton.'s De Doctrina Christiana which continually supports his readings of Milton's faith in the power of redemption. ... Hillier's study is one that empathises with his modern reader ... detailed discussions of the Bible and Milton's work offer invaluable support and depth to the reader's understanding of seventeenth-century Protestantism. * Sophie Rudland, The Glass * Hillier's readings of Milton's poetry are frequently excellent, having that all-too-rare combination of dense learning and readability. This is a book well worth the attention of students of Milton and of Reformation theology, and one that makes a significant contribution to scholarship. * Feisal G. Mohamed, Renaissance Quarterly * Milton's Messiah is a fine scholarly work that demands and rewards the concentration of readers ... Hillier offers distinctive and illuminating close readings of important passages from both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regain'd, not a mean feat these days. * Mandy Green, The Modern Language Review * In Milton's Messiah, Russell M. Hillier presents the latest, as well as one of the most fully delineated, versions of the orthodox Milton in a book that, complementing previous studies by Dennis Burden and Dennis Danielson, also elaborates upon work of Barbara Lewalski, while challenging that by William Empson, Michael Bryson, and John Rogers, even as it would rehabilitate Fishean hermeneutics. Seen through the lens of Hillier's enormously ambitious book, Milton's are the great epics of 'Protestant Christianity' (38) and, together, a 'cornerstone of orthodox Protestant belief' ... learned and eloquent. * Joseph Wittreich, Milton Quarterly * Hillier writes with stylistic felicity and wit, and Milton's Messiah offers an erudite and incisive understanding of the way in which Milton uses typology, allegory, and irony to underscore the centrality of the Son and redemptive theology in Paradise Lost ... Hillier's fine, sometimes compellingly original interpretations of De Doctrina stem from his attention to the original Latin version of that treatise. * Paul Cefalu, Literature and Theology * Milton's Messiah ... proves to be an excellent addition to Milton scholarship ... [I]n an age when it is almost taboo to see Milton as a fairly conventional Protestant, I find Milton's Messiah to be rather refreshing and a wonderful ballast to Milton scholarship that has been leaning heavily one way for two decades now. * Mitchell M. Harris, The Year's Work in English Studies * Hillier writes with stylistic felicity and wit, and Miltons Messiah offers an erudite and incisive understanding of the way in which Milton uses typology, allegory, and irony to underscore the centrality of the Son and redemptive theology in Paradise Lost. * Paul Cefalu, Literature and Theology *

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