“Queer Milton” edited by David L. Orvis— The First Book Length Study

Orvis, David L. (editor). “Queer Milton”, (Early Modern Cultural Studies 1500–1700) , Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

The First Book Length Study

Amos Lassen

“Queer Milton” is the first book-length study that is dedicated to anti-heteronormative approaches to the poetry and prose of John Milton. It is organized into sections on “Eroticism and Form” and “Temporality and Affect,” and the essays in this volume read Milton’s works through radical queer interpretive frameworks.  We leverage insights from recent queer work and related fields with contributions that demonstrate diverse possible futures for Queer Milton Studies. “Queer Milton” shows us “the capacity for queer to arbitrate debates that have shaped, and indeed continue to shape, developments in the field of Milton Studies.”

I am amazed at myself for not getting a sense of Milton being queer when I studied him as a graduate student. In fact, thinking back on that now and that was many years ago, I do not remember his sexuality ever being spoken in my coursework.

The contributors come from varying coordinates within queer theory to bring the field’s concerns with sex, language, time, affect, the environment, and beyond into conversation with Milton’s works and we soon see that there was more than one queer Milton. What we definitely see is that the study of Milton can open up new and exciting ways to look at early modern queer studies.”

The book is an original, smart, and very timely contribution to Milton studies. The research here used  broad, deep, and sophisticated explorations of queer methodologies in relation to Milton’s works.

The contributors engage in fresh and lively criticism that is reinforced by the categories that are those being used in the area of queer theory: “affect, the body and intimacy, alterity and ipseity.” I can’t help but wonder if we can also use Milton in disability studies and to this day I can recite, by heart, “On His Blindness” which I had to memorize in high school when I was just 16. It just seems to me that the romance poets became even more romantic than they had ever been before.

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