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Milton's Paradise Lost, the most eloquent, most intellectually daring, most learned, and most sublime poem in the English language, is a poem about angels. It is told by and of angels; it relies upon their conflicts, communications, and miscommunications. They are the creatures of Milton's narrative, through which he sets the Fall of humankind against a cosmic background.
Milton's angels are real beings, and the stories he tells about them rely on his understanding of what they were and how they acted. While he was unique in the sublimity of his imaginative rendering of angels, he was not alone in writing about them. Several early-modern English poets wrote epics that explore the actions of and grounds of knowledge about angels. Angels were intimately linked to theories of representation, and theology could be a creative force. Natural philosophers and theologians too found it interesting or necessary to explore angel doctrine. Angels did not disappear in Reformation theology: though centuries of Catholic traditions were stripped away, Protestants used them in inventive ways, adapting tradition to new doctrines and to shifting perceptions of the world. Angels continued to inhabit all kinds of writing, and shape the experience and understanding of the world.
Milton's Angels: The Early-Modern Imagination explores the fate of angels in Reformation Britain, and shows how and why Paradise Lost is a poem about angels that is both shockingly literal and sublimely imaginative.
Joad Raymond is Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia. He was educated at Howardian High school in Cardiff, the University of East Anglia and Oxford University, and taught at Oxford and the University of Aberdeen before taking up his post at UEA. He is the author of TheInvention of the Newspaper: English Newsbooks 1641-1649 (OUP, 1996) and Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain (CUP, 2003), and editor of several volumes of essays on Milton, newspapers and print culture. His edited volume The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, vol. 1: CheapPrint in Britain and Ireland to 1660 was published by Oxford University Press in 2011. He is presently editing Miltons Latin defences for the Oxford Edition of the Complete Works of John Milton, and working on a project about transnational news networks in early-modern Europe. He lives in Swaffham Prior, and is a keen cook, parent, and marathon runner.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Conventions Abbreviations Illustrations 1. Introduction: Protestant angels, poets, the imagination Part one: Understanding angels 2. Angelographia: Writing about angels 3. Angelology: Knowledge of angels 4. Angels, Writing and Radical Speculation, 1640-1660 5. Conversations with Angels: The Pordages and their Angelical World 6. The Fleshy Imagination and the Word of God 7. Spiritual Gifts: Angels, Inspiration, and Prophecy Part two: Milton's angels 8. Can Angels Feign? 9. Look Homeward Angel: Angelic guardianship and nationhood 10. Angels in I aradise Lost 11. The Natural Philosophy of Angels 12. 'With the tongues of angels': Angelic Conversations Part three: Literature and Representation 13. Dryden's Fall: Dreams, Angels, Freewill 14. Conclusion: Angels and Literary Representation