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Publications and Works-In-Progress


  1. The Humanist (Re)Turn: Reclaiming the Self in Literature (Routledge, 2019)

    The Humanist Return

    This book argues for a renewed emphasis on humanism—against “the anti-humanism” of the last several decades of literary/theoretical scholarship, from the decentering of the author in Mallarmé, Barthes, and Foucault, to the fragmented—even disappearing—subject of Frederic Jameson, to the “posthuman” perspectives of critics like Donna Haraway, Richard Grusin, Rosa Braidotti, and others whose work emphasizes the decentering of the human in favor of a turn toward the nonhuman, whether understood in terms of animals, affectivity, bodies, organic and geophysical systems, materiality, or technology. It takes as its frame the idea of transcendence, specifically in terms of what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin calls a retournement dans l'Autre [return (in)to the Other], and what Carl Jung refers to as individuation. In each case, the dynamic is a turn toward the Other (without or within).

  2. Review of Timothy Rosendale, Theology and Agency in Early Modern Literature.
    Journal of British Studies 58.2 (Winter 2019), 430-32.

  3. Carpe Diem: Love, Resistance to Authority, and the Necessity of Choice in Andrew Marvell and Elizabeth Cary
    Humanities 2018, 7(2), 61

  4. Review of Stephen Greenblatt, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve.
    Spenser Review 48.2 (Spring-Summer 2018).

  5. The Artist as Critic: Two Modern Musical Responses to Paradise Lost.
    Milton Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2017, 146-52.

  6. 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.

  7. Review of Gordon Teskey, The Poetry of John Milton.
    Spenser Review 45.3.15 (Winter 2016).

  8. Review of William Walker. Antiformalist, Unrevolutionary, Illiberal Milton: Political Prose, 1644-1660.
    Milton Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4, 2015, 275-79.

  9. 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.

  10. "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.

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

  12. Review of Stephen Dobranski, ed. Milton in Context.
    Milton Quarterly, volume 46 issue 1 (March 2012), 29-31.

  13. “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. 2010, pp. 241-265.

  14. Review of Abraham Stoll, Milton and Monotheism.
    Renaissance Quarterly, volume 62 issue 4 (1 December 2009), 1391-1392.

  15. A Poem to the Unknown God: Samson Agonistes and Negative Theology.
     Milton Quarterly, March 2008, vol. 42, No. 1, 2008, 22-43.

  16. "The Mysterious Darkness of Unknowing: Paradise Lost and the God Beyond Names."
    In A Poem Written In Ten Books: Paradise Lost 1667, Eds. John Shawcross and Michael Lieb. Duquesne UP, 2007, 183-212.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.


  19. “'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)
  20. “Dismemberment and Community: Sacrifice and the Communal Body in the Hebrew Scriptures”
    Religion and Literature
    35.1 (Spring 2003), pp. 1-21

  21. “'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
  22. “Thomas Shadwell”
    The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors. Ed. Alan Hager. Greenwood Press, 2004
  23. “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. Alchemy, Witchcraft, and the Magus Figure in The Tempest--notes for a class discussion/lecture.