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Was Milton on the side of the angels or the devils? Was he republican or anti-republican, feminist or misogynist? Did he value innocence or experience? Lucy Newlyn shows how the Romantic reader responds, in complex and often paradoxical ways, to multiple ambiguities inherent in the very language of Paradise Lost. She examines ambivalent allusions to Satan and God, in responses to the French Revolution (Coleridge and Wordsworth), in studies of the origin of evil (Godwin, Blake, the Shelleys), in accounts of the creative imagination; and looks at how Eve pervades representations of female sexuality (Byron and Keats). The book culminates in a chapter on Blake's Milton, and prose writers such as De Quincey, Lamb, Wollstonecraft, and Hazlitt are also considered. Milton emerges as a poet of indeterminacy, not an authority figure, whose concern with the problematic issues of revolution and religion, sexuality and selfhood, make his writing relevant and accessible.
Lucy Newlyn is Lecturer in English, St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and author of Reading, Writing, and Romanticism and Coleridge, Wordsworth, and the Language of Allusion.