Milton and the Victorians (Hardback)Erik Gray (author)
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The Victorian period was a golden age for the study of Milton. Yet the influence of Milton on poetry, and on literature more generally, during the period is often obscure. Victorian writers rarely display the overt, self-conscious engagement with Milton that typified so much Romantic writing earlier in the nineteenth century. In Milton and the Victorians, Erik Gray argues that this shift represents not a breach but an expansion: if Milton's influence seems less remarkable than before, it is due not to his absence but to his pervasiveness.
Through detailed consideration of works by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, Alfred Tennyson, and George Eliot, Gray shows how Victorian writers tended to draw upon the less sublime, more understated elements of Milton's writings. In tracing the characteristically oblique influence of Milton on Victorian authors, Gray also draws attention to important aspects of Milton's own work, notably the way it often depicts power being exerted indirectly. Gray thus proposes new and nuanced models of literary relations, while offering original and elegant readings both of Milton's poetry and of major works of Victorian literature.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 200
Weight: 454 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 20 mm
"Gray sees Milton's influence as becoming paradoxically less visible but even more pervasive during the Victorian period. Writers no longer self-consciously drew attention to their engagement with Milton because his works had become 'classics,' so familiar that they were always in the background. Gray supports his thesis with acute analysis of works by a number of authors, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, Alfred Tennyson, and George Eliot. This engaging book will be a valuable resource for students of Milton, of Victorian literature, and of the nature of influence. Recommended"-Choice, September 2009
"The idea behind this gracefully written, very original book has something in common with the Milton it finds behind Victorian writers. Like the great poet by the middle of the nineteenth century, Gray's topic is hidden in plain sight: obvious to the point where it has become practically invisible to literary history, and therefore all the more surprising when Gray draws it out of thin air and makes it present to critical consciousness. Gray possesses outstanding talents for the job he has undertaken-analytic ingenuity in close reading, a patient and well-stocked memory, an ear judicious in the detection of echoes that signify, and a light touch in setting them forth for literary-historical understanding."-Herbert Tucker, John C. Coleman Professor of English, University of Virginia
"In this subtle and meticulously discriminating study of the Victorians' Milton, Erik Gray takes the critical debate on influence a stage further by exploring the paradox of Milton's powerful influence and invisible presence in Victorian culture. Adept in creating felicitous intellectual surprise, he shows how not only the poets-from Christina Rossetti to Tennyson-but the key texts of Victorian culture, Trollope's Barsetshire novels, George Eliot's Middlemarch and Arnold's Culture and Anarchy, are saturated in Milton's poetry and polemics. Both bold and nuanced, this book offers readers a unique threefold exploration, of Milton research among Victorian critics and scholars, of the complex response to Milton among poets, novelists and in cultural texts, and a speculative reading of the nature of influence itself. This is a fine achievement and will find its place among the classics of Milton criticism."-Isobel Armstrong
"The central focus of Erik Gray's fine book is his argument that the Victorian perception of Milton differed markedly from that of the Romantic, an argument ably supported by detailed and critically acute readings of major works of Victorian authors such as Tennyson, Arnold, Christina Rossetti, and George Eliot. Designed to illustrate Gray's other major argument that Milton's influence on the Victorians can, in his own words,'best be understood by examining representations of similarly oblique, diffuse, or hidden influence in Milton's poetry and prose,' these essays yield an illuminating, closely reasoned, and at times brilliant book about Milton's influence on Victorian literature and, to a lesser extent, the current discussions about literary influence. Gray's study of Milton and the Victorians reveals the mind of an impressive literary critic who has given us an invaluable study full of new insights not only into Milton the man and his work but into Victorian literature and thought as well."-James G. Nelson, University of Wisconsin-Madison