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Milton scholar provides new view of poet's life in new book

Author: Arts and Letters


Stephen M. Fallon, professor of liberal studies and English at the University of Notre Dame, provides a new view of 17th century English poet John Milton’s life and his importance for contemporary literary theory in a new book published by Cornell University Press.

In “Milton’s Peculiar Grace: Self-Representation and Authority,” Fallon argues that Milton, best known for his epic poem “Paradise Lost,” is a theological writer, but not a religious writer.

“While a sense of oneself as sinful and needing grace defines religious experience for his contemporaries, Milton writes about himself, impossibly, as if unfallen,” Fallon explained. “The doctrine of fall, grace and regeneration, so well illustrated in_`_Paradise Lost,’ has no discernible effect on Milton’s overt self-representations. His refusal to tell the required story about himself has far-reaching effects on his works. The return of the repressed narrative on the one hand unsettles his political arguments and ultimately helps account for much of the creative power of his major poems.”

Based on close readings of Milton’s “self-constructions” in prose and poetry throughout his career, Fallon’s book provides a new view of Milton’s life and his importance for contemporary literary theory, in particular for continued questions about authorial intention.

A scholar of Milton and early modern literature and intellectual history, Fallon also is the author of “Milton Among the Philosophers: Poetry and Materialism in Seventeenth-Century England,” which was just released in paperback from Cornell University Press. He also co-edited Milton’s complete poetry and selected prose. Fallon is on the editorial board of the “Yale Milton Encyclopedia.” He twice has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow as well as a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. He co-founded and continues to teach a course on literary and philosophical classics at the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Contact: Stephen M. Fallon, 574-631-6598,

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at on January 26, 2007.