A highly original hybrid of biography, political history, and literary criticism, telling of the enduring, surprising and ever-evolving relevance of Milton’s epic poem through the scandalous life of its creator and the revolutionary lives that were influenced by it.
What in Me Is Dark tells the unlikely story of how Milton’s epic poem came to haunt political struggles over the past four centuries, including the many different, unexpected, often contradictory ways in which it has been read, interpreted, and appropriated through time and across the world, and to revolutionary ends. The book focuses on twelve readers—including Malcolm X, Thomas Jefferson, George Eliot, Hannah Arendt, and C.L.R James—whose lives demonstrate extraordinary and disturbing influence on the modern age.
Drawing from his own experiences teaching Paradise Lost in New Jersey prisons, English scholar Orlando Reade deftly investigates how the poem was read by people embedded in struggles against tyranny, slavery, colonialism, gender inequality, and capitalist exploitation. It is experimental nonfiction at its finest; rich literary analysis and social, cultural and political history are woven together to make a clarifying case for the undeniable impact of the poem.