Editing Milton: The Case Against Modernization

Stephen B. Dobranski

in The Oxford Handbook of Milton

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697885
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Editing Milton: The Case Against Modernization

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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This article explores the modern editing practices of John Milton's poetry and argues for the need to respect the evidence of his original publications – both the accidentals and the bibliographical context. Surveying the approaches taken by recent editors, it aims to show, most simply, that form matters: the edition in which readers experience Milton's poetry can influence their interpretations. The uncertainty surrounding Milton's contemporary texts may itself be significant. Other details in Milton's original publications that modernizing editors obscure or omit also deserve attention. Milton's revisions in modern editions of Paradise Lost are addressed. The consequences of modernization are also described. Only by looking anew at the old forms of Milton's publications can the meaning of his poems can be understood.

Keywords: John Milton; poetry; Paradise Lost; modernization; contemporary texts

Article.  8674 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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