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Spenser, Milton, and the Redemption of the Epic Hero

Christopher Bond

This book studies the interplay of theology and poetics in the three great epics of early-modern England: the Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, and Paradise Regained. Bond examines the relationship between the poems' primary heroes, Arthur and the Son, who are godlike, virtuous, and powerful, and the secondary heroes, Redcrosse and Adam, who are human, fallible, and weak. He looks back at the development of this pattern of dual heroism in classical, Medieval, and Italian Renaissance literature, investigates the ways in which Spenser and Milton adapted the model, and demonstrates how the Jesus of Paradise Regained can be seen as the culmination of this tradition. Challenging the opposition between "Calvinist," "allegorical" Spenser and "Arminian," "dramatic" Milton, this book offers a new account of their doctrinal and literary affinities within the European epic tradition. Arguing that Spenser influenced Milton in fundamental ways, Bond establishes a firmer structural and thematic link between the two authors, and shows how they transformed a strongly antifeminist genre by the addition of a crucial, although at times ambivalent, heroine. He also proposes solutions to some of the most difficult and controversial theological cruxes posed by these poems, in particular Spenser's attitude to free will and Milton's to the Trinity. By providing a deeper understanding of the religious agendas of these epics, this book encourages a rapprochement between scholarly approaches that are too narrowly concerned with either theology or poetics. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 260Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-1-61149-066-4 • Hardback • April 2011 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-61149-465-5 • Paperback • March 2013 • $38.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-61149-067-1 • eBook • April 2011 • $38.99 • (£24.95)
Christopher Bond was an A. Bartlett Giamatti Fellow. Bond has taught English literature at Yale and law at City University, London. He now practices at the commercial bar in London.
1 Note on References
2 Introduction
Chapter 3 One: The Two Heroes of Epic
Chapter 4 Two: The Transformation of Epic Heroism in the Italian Renaissance
Chapter 5 Three: The Legend of Holiness and the Fall of Man
Chapter 6 Four: The Salvation of Adam and the Redcrosse Knight
Chapter 7 Five: Spenser's Arthur: The Education of a Christian Prince
Chapter 8 Six: The Evolving Perfection of Milton's Christ
9 Epilogue:The Two Heroes of Wordsworth's Prelude
10 List of Works Cited
A scholar of both English literature and law, Bond (formerly Yale and Univ. of London, UK) identifies a previously unexamined pattern of dual heroism in the epic poems of Edmund Spenser and John Milton: the use of both a primary hero with perfect virtue and great physical strength and a weaker secondary hero who is human and fallible. The author sees the roots of this epic pattern in Lucan, Langland, and Tasso but finds that Spenser and Milton developed it far beyond their predecessors. Bond devotes a third of the book to a detailed comparison of Book I of Spenser's The Faerie Queene and Books 9 and 10 of Milton's Paradise Lost, firmly establishing Spenser's influence on Milton. Among other things, Bond finds that both poets challenge the antifeminist bias of earlier epics, with Una leading Redcrosse back to spiritual health and Eve doing the same for Adam. Other chapters explore Spenser's Arthur and the depiction of Christ in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Well-written and accessible, this insightful study will reward students and scholars at every level. Extensive notes follow each chapter, with a cumulative bibliography at the end. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.

Christopher Bond offers an alternative to the synchronic and political approach to Milton in Spenser, Milton, and the Redemption of the Epic Hero. Concerned with the relationship between poetic structure and didacticism, Bond situates the two poets in a European tradition dating back to Homer and pays rewarding attention to Dante, Tasso, and Italian literary debates....This book offers more than a passionate, often eloquent account of Kant's intellectual development. Budick explores this problem in the context of a broader cultural contest over Milton's legacy, one that pitted Kant's reverence for Milton against Johann Gottfried Herder's tone-deaf championship of Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. Romanticists and comparatists will gall in love with this book.
Studies In English Literature, 1500-1900

This is an engaging book, and is notable for the sense in which, throughout his comparative analysis, Bond is keen to explore not just how narrative poetry works (the development of its stories and characters) but how it works in relation to religious doctrine, and thus its didactic impetus.
The Year's Work In English Studies