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Making Darkness Light is an illumination’ Adam Phillips

‘His sympathetic yet challenging account will undoubtedly win Milton new readers – and for that a chorus of Hallelujahs’ Spectator


For most of us John Milton has been consigned to the dusty pantheon of English literature, a grim puritan, sightlessly dictating his great work to an amanuensis, removed from the real world in his contemplation of higher things. But dig a little deeper and you find an extraordinary and complicated human being.

Revolutionary and apologist for regicide, writer of propaganda for Cromwell’s regime, defender of the English people and passionate European, scholar and lover of music and the arts – Milton was all of these things and more.

Making Darkness Light shows how these complexities and contradictions played out in Milton’s fascination with oppositions – Heaven and Hell, light and dark, self and other – most famously in his epic poem Paradise Lost. It explores the way such brutal contrasts define us and obscure who we really are, as the author grapples with his own sense of identity and complex relationship with Milton. Retracing Milton’s footsteps through seventeenth century London, Tuscany and the Marches, he vividly brings Milton’s world to life and takes a fresh look at his key works and ideas around the nature of creativity, time and freedom of expression. He also illustrates the profound influence of Milton’s work on writers from William Blake to Virginia Woolf, James Joyce to Jorge Luis Borges.

This is a book about Milton, that also speaks to why we read and what happens when we choose over time to let another’s life and words enter our own. It will change the way you think about Milton forever.

Reviews

Making Darkness Light is not a conventional biography . . . despite the ambitious and demanding nature of his project, Moshenska writes with humility and agility
Literary Review
Making Darkness Light is elegant, nuanced, and comprehensive. Moshenska gives us a fresh and vivid account of Milton as an individual and a poet while pushing beyond the boundaries of conventional biography. Blending the personal with the historical and the literary, the results are compelling'
Bart van Es, author of The Cut Out Girl
Joe Moshenska's superb new biography of Milton is, like the poetry of his subject, a miracle of form, moving from moments of arresting detail to vast contemplations of time, history, and art, all set within an intimate narrative that is at once deeply embedded in its historical moment and aware of how that history connects through other moments to the present. The result is a stirring and compelling account of how great poetry gets written and gets read
Edward Wilson-Lee, author of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books
Moshenska has written a new kind of literary biography. At once glancingly a memoir, a rivetingly informative biography, and a fascinating reading of Milton as poet, scholar and ordinary man in his everyday life, Making Darkness Light is an illumination. Milton and everything and everybody around him are seen in a quite different, intriguing light.
Adam Phillips, author of On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored and Becoming Freud
Joe Moshenska is professionally committed to creating a readership for Milton among those for whom Genesis, Virgil, Homer and Tasso are closed books . . . A great imaginative exercise . . . His sympathetic yet challenging account will undoubtedly win Milton new readers - and for that a chorus of Hallelujahs
A.N. Wilson, Spectator
Strikingly original . . . a poetic tour of 17th-century England . . . Literature lovers of all sorts will find something to savor here
Publishers Weekly
Oxford literature professor Moshenska takes a fresh perspective on John Milton (1608-1674), the art of biography, and the experience of reading . . . An inspired biographical and autobiographical journey
Kirkus
Making Darkness Light is unlike any book on Milton I have ever read. It is often densely erudite, but also richly inventive . . . [its] avoidance of easy certainties is typical of this subtle, challenging book
John Carey, The Sunday Times
Joe Moshenska . . . is astute in placing music, especially rhythm (a word neither Milton nor Shakespeare used) and its visceral relationship to the body, at the root of this original, penetrating, cleverly constructed and occasionally frustrating biography
Paul Lay, The Times
Tantalisingly different and new...an extraordinary, seductive work of intellectual imagination
Financial Times
Moshenska . . . brings his own experiences into this searching creative portrait of the visionary English poet. The book . . . comes alive in its alert close readings
New York Times
Of course, anyone looking for a deeper understanding of the facts of Milton's life and the context for his poetry will certainly find what they're looking for here. Making Darkness Light includes not only moments in Milton's life and the landscape of 17th century England as well as close readings of his work. But it's the exploration of what the author describes as one of Milton's deepest occupations, "the place of literature in a life," that sets the book apart. Moshenka has no aspirations to separate the biographer from the biography, and Making Darkness Light is richer for his presence throughout the book
Jessie Gaynor, Lit Hub Senior Editor
Moshenska knows his way around Milton's world... Making Darkness Light privileges us with a peek inside its author's mind in contemplation of such a life and makes a compelling case that it could be told in no other way
Boston Globe