I’ve been cranking away at my chapter on Milton’s Satan the last couple days, and I’ve found that the older books on the topic are much more helpful for my project. Peter A. Fiore’s 1981 book Milton and Augustine in particular does a proeject that runs alongside mine, and time after time I find insights that help me think through my project without thinking that I’ve been rewriting someone else’s book. And if someone out there wonders whether folks in “the field” consider 27-year-old books on a 400-year-old poet are out of date, the answer is in some cases yes and in some cases a contrarian no. To my great benefit, my own dissertation director is wise enough to enjoy the older and the newer stuff.
Besides resonating with my project, Fiore takes shots at other people’s sloppy scholarship (and there are sloppy scholars writing Renaissance books, I’ve found–sometimes I wonder whether people actually read the books they’re writing about) subtly and without making a giant fight of it. He’ll start a paragraph on a throught that pertains to his main argument, put in the barb a couple sentences deep, and then finish his thought. I like that, and I hope my dissertation can imitate that wonderful scholarly reserve.
Now back to Fiore. His chapter on fallen angels was great, and now I’m going to read his chapter on Milton’s Jesus with an eye on my other Milton chapter.