With a new preface that places this book in the context of recent theory-oriented studies of Milton, R.A. Shoaf explores the connections between modern literary criticism and Renaissance poetry, focusing on rhetoric and rhetorical devices as instances - not just agents - of Milton's complex theological argument. Heeding the poet's concern for relationships (both human and divine), Shoaf proposes that the dual and the duel (Satan versus Christ, for example) are powerful heuristic tools in reading Milton. By turns defining, deflating, and punning, Shoaf probes such key terms in Milton as "difference", "contrary", "pair", "part", "justify" and "sign" (in all its forms from "resign" to signify"). He embarks on an "analysis of narcissism in sin and the sign", noting that Milton plots the fall of language on the same graph as the fall into sin and finding that for much of the way the curve for each is identical. In nine chapters of the book he comments on "Paradise Lost"; in other chapters he deals with "Paradise Regained", "Samson Agonistes" and Spencer's "Faerie Queene".
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