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December 1992
536 pages  

6 x 9
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The Empty Garden
The Subject of Late Milton
Rushdy, Ashraf
By analyzing Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, Ashraf H. A. Rushdy redefines Milton’s creative spirit in a way that encompasses his poetic, political, and religious careers.

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Ashraf H. A. Rushdy is professor and chair of African American Studies and professor of English at Wesleyan University.
“The Empty Garden examines the twin poems of Milton’s 1671 volume . . . . It is a brave and ambitious book which sends the patient reader back to school. . . . Rushdy makes a strong case for Milton’s defense of ethical individualism as a political position that mattered in the late 17th century in England and continues to matter in the culture wars of our time and place.”—Seventeenth-Century News

“Ashraf H. A. Rushdy has written an ambitious, widely-ranging, and complicated study. . . . The Empty Garden is a learned, challenging, and provocative book. . . . [It] substantially deepens and complicates our understanding of the 1671 volume.”—Essays in Criticism

“Rushdy brings an impressive knowledge of political theory (from the early modern to the postmodern) and contemporary literary theory to bear on his examination of Milton, particularly the great post-Restoration poems, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes.”

It is full of interesting ideas and brimming with enthusiasm. Rushdy makes important claims for John Milton as a political philosopher (comparable with Hobbes) and religious-cultural critic ‘of the first order.’ . . . Another virtue of Rushdy’s study is the close attention the author pays to Milton’s words. . . . Certainly it is a stimulating study, even if it stimulates one to disagree. But it would be rewarding to argue with Ashraf Rushdy. I believe that John Milton would agree.”—Sewanee Review

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The Empty Garden draws a portrait of Milton as a cultural and religious critic who, in his latest and greatest poems, wrote narratives that illustrate the proper relationships among the individual, the community, and God. Rushdy argues that the political theory implicit in these relationships arises from Milton’s own drive for self-knowledge, a kind of knowledge that gives the individual freedom to act in accordance with his or her own understanding of God’s will rather than the state’s. Rushdy redefines Milton’s creative spirit in a way that encompasses his poetic, political, and religious careers.


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