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The facts of John Milton's life are well documented, but what of the person Milton—the man whose poetic and prose works have been deeply influential and are still the subject of opposing readings? John Shawcross's "different" biography depicts the man against a psychological backdrop that brings into relief who he was—in his works and from his works.

While the theories of Freud, Lacan, Kohut, and others underlie this pursuit of Milton's "self," Jung and some of his followers provide the basic understanding by which Shawcross places Milton in the panorama of history. His explorations of the psychological underpinnings of Milton's decision to become a poet, of the homoerotic dimensions of his personality, and of his relationships with father and mother demonstrate the extent to which psychobiography proves itself invaluable as a means to appreciate this complex writer and his complex writings.

This biography combines the traditional chronological narrative with a technique akin to that of fiction, "a mixture of times and a triggering of remembrances from various time frames without time differentiations." Such an approach offers a view of Milton "not only in being but in process of being."

Shawcross's examination of two current concerns, gender attitudes and political ideologies, ranges Milton's work against the self he exhibits. Specialists and nonspecialists alike will find in this magisterial biography a wealth of new insight into one of the greatest of English poets.

Winner of the James Holly Hanford Prize given by the Milton Society of America

John T. Shawcross is professor emeritus of English at the University of Kentucky and the author and editor of many books.

"Reveals much about its subject, especially as a young man."—Albion

"The careful readings, the precise chronologies, and the learned attention to symbol from etymology to archetype make this biographical account of Milton one that scholars will have to both wrestle with and, for the most part, accede to, however reluctantly, for a long time to come."—Book Review Corner

"An engaging and necessary read for anyone interested in Milton's great poems."—Kritikon Litterarum

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






John Milton, Psychoanalysis and literature, Milton and gender, Early modern English poetry


Literature in English, British Isles

John Milton: The Self and the World
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