The Self and the World
John T. Shawcross
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.