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Literary history attests to readers’ ongoing engagement with Milton’s figures of evil, especially the Satan of Paradise Lost. Milton’s Satan has been valorized, psycho-analyzed, historicized, theologized, and—inevitably—demonized for well over three centuries. Most readers find Milton’s Satan unsettling in some way, and our readings of this figure have been, and are likely to remain, unsettled. But our nature (and perhaps our profession) insists that we persist in our attempts to do just that. And while history demonstrates that no such attempts will be (or perhaps can be) final and determinative, history also shows that some attempts to do this are more instructive and illuminating than others.


Originally published as:

“Reading Evil in and Out of Milton: A Review Essay.” Milton Quarterly 47.2 (May 2013): 258-68.

Smith, S. (2013). Reading evil in and out of milton: A review essay: samuel smith. Milton Quarterly, 47(2), 88–98.