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Publications and Works-In-Progress


  1. Love and its Critics: From the Song of Songs to Shakespeare and Milton's Eden
    Open Book Publishers, 2017.


    This book re-imagines the relationship between love, poetry (and literature more generally), and literary/theological/philosophical criticism of poetry going all the way back to the Augustan era in Rome. The book tells a story, relates a history of love, through literature and its sometimes adversarial relationship to the laws and customs, the political and economic structures of the times and places in which that literature was produced. But it is also relates a history of the way love has been treated, not by our poets, but by those our culture has entrusted with the “authority” to maintain and perpetuate the understanding, and even the memory, of poetry. Together with the tradition of love poetry has grown a tradition of criticism that tends to argue that what merely seems to be passionate love poetry is actually properly understood as something else (worship of God, subordination to Empire, entanglement within the structures of language itself).

    The pattern of such criticism—from the earliest readings of the Song of Songs to contemporary articles written about a carpe diem poem like Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time”—is to argue that the surface or exterior of a poem hides the “real” or “deeper” meaning, and that it is the critic’s job to pull back or tear away that surface in order to expose what lies beneath it. Employing a method Paul Ricoeur called “les herméneutiques du soupçon” (the hermeneutics of suspicion), such a reading strategy is a matter of cunning (falsification) encountering an even greater cunning (suspicion), as the “lies” and “false consciousness” of a text are systematically exposed by the critic. In essence, this book is an attempt to defend poetry against a kind of criticism that treats poetry as an illusion that needs to be debunked or an opponent that needs to be defeated.

  2. The Atheist Milton Ashgate Press, 2012


    This project argues that Milton was an atheist in his own day, and would be an atheist were he alive today, Despite the deliberate provocation of the title,  I am trying to make a fairly nuanced case. “Atheism” meant different things in Milton’s day than it does for us today. Essentially, the word has become narrower in scope for us, less flexible in its capacity to carry shades of meaning. “Atheist” tends to mean one thing today: someone who does not believe in God. In Milton’s time, the term “atheist” was used in a much more wide-ranging way: it could refer to someone who did not believe that God existed, but more commonly it referred, not to unbelief, but to variations in belief that were regarded by the accuser (and the word is almost always an accusation rather than a self-chosen label) as straying from orthodox belief, what I refer to in the book (with all due irony) as correct belief as opposed to the incorrect belief of the “atheist.”

    My argument is two-fold: based on his association with Arian ideas (denial of the doctrine of the Trinity), his argument for the de Deo theory of creation (which puts him in line with the materialism of Spinoza and Hobbes), and his Mortalist argument that the human soul dies with the human body, that Milton was an Atheist by the commonly-used definitions of the period. And as the poet who takes a reader from the presence of an imperious, monarchical God in Paradise Lost, to the internal—almost Gnostic—conception of God in Paradise Regained, to the absence of any God whatsoever in Samson Agonistes, Milton is the poet of the atheists, pushing harder against that old “task-Master” than any poet before or since.

  3. "The Gnostic Milton: Salvation and Divine Similitude in Paradise Regained"
    The New Milton Criticism. Eds. Peter C. Herman and Elizabeth Sauer, Cambridge UP, 2012, 102-19.

  4. “The Problem of God”
    Approaches to Teaching Paradise Lost. 2nd ed. Ed. Peter C. Herman. MLA Press, 2012, 76-83.

  5. “From Last Things to First: The Apophatic Vision of Paradise Regained”
    In Milton and the Visionary Mode: Essays on Prophecy and Violence. Eds. Peter E. Medine and David V. Urban. Duquesne UP. pp. 241-265.

  6. "The Mysterious Darkness of Unknowing: Paradise Lost and the God Beyond Names." A book chapter for a collection on the 1667 edition of Paradise Lost edited by John Shawcross and Michael Lieb (forthcoming from Duquesne UP).
  7. "The Negation of “God”: Samson Agonistes and Negative Theology--a  chapter-length paper currently being prepared for a long form presentation in Chicago at the Newberry Library Milton Seminar in May 2005, and a shorter form presentation at the International Milton Conference in Grenoble, France in June 2005.
  8. The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King U. Delaware Press. Read a sample of this book, or buy an e-book edition here.


  9. “'His Tyranny Who Reigns': The Biblical Roots of Divine Kingship and Milton's Rejection of Heav'n's King
    Milton Studies 43, pp. 111-144, (2004)
  10. “Dismemberment and Community: Sacrifice and the Communal Body in the Hebrew Scriptures”
    Religion and Literature
    35.1 (Spring 2003), pp. 1-21

  11. “'That be far from thee': Divine Evil and Milton's Attempt to 'Justify the ways of God to men'
    Milton Quarterly, May 2002, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 87-105
  12. Thomas Shadwell
    The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors. Ed. Alan Hager. Greenwood Press, 2004
  13. Review of Victoria Silver, Imperfect Sense: The Predicament of Milton's Irony and David Loewenstein, Representing Revolution in Milton and his Contemporaries
    Religion and Literature
    37.3 (Autumn 2005) 127-36.
  14. “The Horror is Us: Western Religious Memory and the Colonialist God in Heart of Darkness
    Henry Street (9.1), Spring 2000, pp. 20-39

Other Resources

  1. Literary Criticism From the Dead--a series of analyses/summaries of critical positions from Plato to Postmodernism
  2. The Quest for the Fiction of an Absolute--an essay (in need of some reworking before attempting journal publication) on mysticism in two poems by Wallace Stevens.
  3. Turn, Turn, and Turn Again--a brief essay on "honesty" and "whoredom" in Othello.
  4. Alchemy, Witchcraft, and the Magus Figure in The Tempest--notes for a class discussion/lecture.
  5. Reclaiming the Self: Transcending the Fragmentation of the Individual Subject--an only slightly altered version of my MA thesis (from 1996), parts of which I may (or may not) return to in order to develop more fully.