J. Martin Evans

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Milton's poems invariably depict the decisive instant in a story, a moment of crisis that takes place just before the action undergoes a dramatic change of course. Such instants look backward to a past that is about to be superseded or repudiated and forward, at the same time, to a future that will immediately begin to unfold. Martin Evans identifies this moment of transition as ""the Miltonic Moment."" This provocative new study focuses primarily on three of Milton's best known early poems: ""On the Morning of Christ's Nativity,"" ""A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle (Comus),"" and ""Lycidas."" These texts share a distinctive perceptual and cognitive structure, which Evans defines as characteristically Miltonic, embracing a single moment that is both ending and beginning. The poems communicate a profound sense of intermediacy because they seem to take place between the boundaries that separate events. The works illuniated here, which also include Samson Agonistes and Paradise Regained , are all about transition from one form to another: from paganism to Christianity, from youthful inexperience to moral maturity, and from pastoral retirement to heroic engagement. This transformation is often ideological as well as historical or biographical. Evans shows that the moment of transition is characteristic of all Milton's poetry, and he proposes a new way of reading one of the seminal writers of the seventeenth century. Evans concludes that the narrative reversals in Milton's poetry suggest his constant attempts to bring about an intellectual revolution that, at a time of religious and political change in England, would transform an age.

A very readable, fascinating and well-documented short study of Milton’s early poems. -- Anglia

Evan's clear, well-written study represents a permanent contribution to the reading of Milton's poems, certainly the earlier work. -- Choice

Elegantly written. . . . An important reinterpretation of Milton's poetry. -- John T. Shawcross

Evan’s arguments are strong enough to change one’s mind. -- Journal of English and Germanic Philology

Any good book is good because of its intermittent aphoristic sentences and individual insights. For me The Miltonic Moment meets the grade. -- Leland Ryken, Christianity and Literature

The latest in a long line of accomplished critical studies of John Milton’s poetry by Evans. -- Notes and Queries

What Evans does by way of integrating classical allusions with Milton s Christian and ethical concerns impresses me as both new and convincing. . . . This work will take its place among the essential studies of John Milton s poetry. -- Richard J. DuRocher

A first-rate, gracefully engaging piece of scholarship. -- Seventeenth-Century News

This concise and well-written book provides full-scale analyses of three of Milton’s early poems: the Nativity Ode, A Masque, and Lycidas. -- South Atlantic Review

There are some nice close readings here, and a useful exposition of the various revisions and interpretative cruces. -- Year’s Work in English Studies

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






John Milton, English Renaissance


Literature in English, British Isles

The Miltonic Moment
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