Annual Secretary’s Letter 2021

Dear Milton Society of America Member,

I find that the simple act of greeting has grown complicated as we’re all trying to figure out what (or when) our new normal might be. I can only express my hope that this letter finds us all well, even though I am sure that we are grappling with a wide variety of challenges. Our eager anticipation of resuming our regular activities needs, I think, to coexist with plans to reimagine the nature of our scholarly work in an altered future. It’s in that spirit that I would like to report on our activities during the last year while looking ahead to the next.

Updated Webpage

We are pleased to announce that we have redesigned our webpage and moved it to a URL that should be easier to remember: https://miltonsociety.net/. The site is very much a work in progress, so if you see any errors or outdated information, please feel free to send a quick note to MiltonSocietySec@gmail.com. (This email address is also new, and I’m hoping that it ensures that any society-related communication doesn’t get lost in the chaos of my regular work inbox or spam filter.)

Renewing Membership

Unless you are an honored scholar, lifetime member, or retiree, it is time to renew your membership. The Society is pleased to continue to waive annual dues for any prospective or current member for whom the cost is an undue burden.

• To renew your membership—whether by paying your dues or having them waived—please visit our membership page at https://miltonsociety.net/join-or-renew-membership/

Annual membership is $25, and student membership is $10. Especially because the Society is waiving dues whenever necessary, we would be tremendously grateful to anyone willing to make a donation. Please consider donating $10 or $25, which would effectively pay the annual dues on behalf of a graduate student or a colleague. Longstanding lifetime members can renew their commitment to the society by making an Uncouth Swain contribution.


MLA Panels

The Milton Society is sponsoring two panels at the 2022 MLA Convention in Washington, D.C. At the present time, the MLA expects the convention to take place in person, and we are tentatively planning for both of these panels to run live.

419. John Milton: A General Session
Saturday, 8 January 2022, 8:30 – 9:45 a.m. (Marriott Marquis – Dogwood)
We are excited to showcase the work of junior scholars in this year’s general session.
– V. M. Braganza (Harvard U), “Milton’s Shakespearean Cloak and the Art of Readership”
– Owen Kane (Queen’s U), “Milton, Reformation, and Civility in the Early Modern Arctic”Jeremy Specland (Rutgers U), “‘Beauty Stands’: Physiological Beauty in Paradise Regained
– Toscano Pasquale (Princeton U), “Milton’s Crip Intervention in Ableist Epic”

660. Milton and Race Thinking
Sunday, 9 January 2022, 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. (Marriott Marquis – Independence F)
– Urvashi Chakravarty (U of Toronto), “Race, Reproduction, and White Womanhood in Paradise Lost
– Ross Lerner (Occidental C), “Michael’s Milton on Penal Slavery”
– Reginald A. Wilburn (Texas Christian U), “Telling (Sojourner) Truth(s) about Frances Gage’s Miltonic Eve”

RSA Panels

The Milton Society is officially sponsoring three panels at the Renaissance Society of America’s annual conference, which is scheduled to take place between March 30 and April 2, 2022, in Dublin, Ireland. We will provide more details (including confirmation about the in-person and/or online format of the conference) as we receive them.

Critical Race Milton
– Marissa Greenberg (U of New Mexico), “Caucusing in the Milton Classroom”
– Lauren Shohet (Villanova U), “Infernally Uncountable: Milton’s Demons as Subaltern Crowd”
– José Villagrana (San Jose State U), “The Racialized Colonial Origins of Milton’s Conception of Innocence”


John Milton: A General Session
– Alison Chapman (U of Alabama), “Milton and the Irish Boyles”
– Stephen Fallon (U of Notre Dame), “Paradise Lost and the Mystery of Original Evil”
– Edward Jones (Oklahoma State U), “Nomenclature, Taxes, and Misunderstandings about Milton in the Restoration”


Multilingual Milton

– Amrita Dhar (Ohio State U), “Between Satan and Ravan in Milton’s Paradise Lost and Madhusudan’s Meghnad-Badh Kabya”
– Roberta Klimt (King’s C London) “Milton, multilingualism, and the questione della lingua
– James Rasmussen (US Air Force Academy), “The Lost Grace of Paradise: Paradise Lost and J.J. Bodmer’s German Translations of ‘Grace’”

The Society is also co-sponsoring a roundtable with the Rutgers MedRen group.

John Milton and Margaret Cavendish: Harmonies and Discords
Discussants:
– Ann Baynes Coiro (Rutgers U)
– Julie Crawford (Columbia U)
– Emily Griffiths Jones (U of South Florida)
– Laura L. Knoppers (U of Notre Dame)
– Raphael Magarik (U of Illinois at Chicago)
– Mihoko Suzuki (U of Miami)

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to an exciting panel that will be of interest to all of us:

Milton’s Shakespeare
– Maggie Kilgour (McGill U), “On First Looking into Milton’s Shakespeare”
– Nicholas McDowell (U of Exeter), “Shakespeare and Textual Politics”
– Paul Stevens (U of Toronto), “Milton’s Peculiar Shakespeare”

Nominations to the Executive Committee

Our bylaws stipulate that “the affairs of the society shall be administered by an Executive Committee, consisting of the President and the Vice President ex officio, the Secretary and the Treasurer, and six term members, two of whom shall be elected at each Annual Meeting for terms of three years.”

The Executive Committee welcomes nominations for one new term member. Email Eric Song (MiltonSocietySec@gmail.com) before February 15, 2022 with your nominations. The Executive Committee will give full consideration to all nominations received by that date.

Nominations for Honored Scholar

Our bylaws state, “At such times as may seem appropriate the Executive Committee shall, on the basis of a poll of the general membership, cite one or more scholars who have made notable contributions to Milton scholarship.” The Executive Committee does not cite an Honored Scholar every year, but it does annually solicit nominations.

•  Email Eric Song (MiltonSocietySec@gmail.com) before February 15 to nominate an Honored Scholar. The Executive Committee will give full consideration to all nominations received by that date.

Annual Meeting & Booklet

Given the uncertainties surrounding conference travel, the Officers and Executive Committee have decided that it would be prudent to hold our annual meeting once again in a virtual format. We will regret not being able to dine together, but last year’s virtual meeting showed that it is fully possible for us not only to meet but to celebrate together online—with more members being able to attend from all over the globe. The meeting will once again coincide with the RSA Conference. We will send more details as the date draws near.

• We will continue to offer advertising space in our annual booklet. In its digital form, our booklet will be available to well over 500 members. As in previous years, the rate for a full-page advertisement will be $90. We would greatly appreciate it if you would spread word of this advertising opportunity to publishers with whom you have a working relationship, or any other relevant organizations and groups. Anyone interested in placing an ad should contact Eric Song (MiltonSocietySec@gmail.com) for details. The deadline for submitting an advertisement (in a high-resolution image file) will be January 31, 2022.

• We are pleased to announce that we will be continuing our tradition of commissioning an original poem for our booklet. (Last year, former president Angelica Duran arranged to have the artist Richard Kenton Webb produce a stunning set of original drawings, inspired by Lycidas, for our booklet.) This year’s booklet will contain an original poem by Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin, Professor Emerita at Trinity College Dublin. Ni Chuilleanáin has published numerous collections, including Acts and Monuments (1966), The Magdalene Sermon (1989), The Brazen Serpent (1995), The Sun-Fish (2010, The Boys of Bluehill (2015), and The Mother House (2020). She is also an accomplished translator. Her work has earned many accolades, including the prestigious International Griffin Poetry Prize in 2010. She has been described as “among the very best poets of her generation” and as “the Vermeer of contemporary poetry.”

• If it seems likely that a good number of members will, in fact, be attending the RSA conference in person, we hope to plan a small, informal social event. This event will not replace our annual meeting but will instead be an opportunity for some of us to gather in person. We will send more details if this social hour proves feasible.

Member Publications

This year’s annual booklet will include a list of publications that have appeared in 2021 or early 2022, or are forthcoming. This is an opportunity to promote all the scholarly work of our society’s members, so please feel free to list publications that are not specifically on Milton.

• To be included, please email biographical information (name, title, and institution) and bibliographical information for your new publications to Eric Song (MiltonSocietySec@gmail.com), no later than January 31, 2022.

In Memoriam

Please email Eric Song (MiltonSocietySec@gmail.com) with notifications of Milton scholars who have passed away in 2020 for inclusion in the annual booklet.

Honored Scholar and Awardees

This year’s Honored Scholar is Paul Stevens of the University Toronto. He is the author of Imagination and the Presence of Shakespeare in Paradise Lost (1985) and co-editor of the collections Discontinuities: New Essays on Renaissance Literature and Criticism (1998) and Early Modern Nationalism and Milton’s England (2008). Among his groundbreaking essays, two—“Milton and the Icastic Imagation” (1984) and “Paradise Lost and the Colonial Imperative” (1996)—have earned the Milton Society of America’s James Holly Hanford Award for the best article. He has held the prestigious Canada Chair in Early Modern Literature and Culture and has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for his book project Sola Gratia: English Literature and the Secular Ways of Grace. We are delighted to honor Paul’s for his many accomplishments and contributions to Milton scholarship.


The Society is excited to announce the following award winners for scholarship published in 2020:

• The James Holly Hanford Award for a distinguished book on Milton will be awarded to Nicholas McDowell for The Making of John Milton, published by Princeton University Press.

• The James Holly Hanford Award for a distinguished essay on Milton will be awarded to Philippa Earle for “‘Till Body Up to Spirit Work’: Maimonidean Prophecy and Monistic Sublimation in Paradise Regained,” published in Milton Studies 62.1.
• Honorable mention for the Hanford award: Beatrice Bradley, “Creative Juices: Sweat in Paradise Lost,” published in Milton Studies, 62.1

• The Irene Samuel Memorial Award and the John T. Shawcross are vacant for publication year 2020.

We express our deep gratitude to the members of the awards committee, who work to evaluate Milton scholarship published throughout the course of an entire year. Even though this work is conducted in anonymity, it is a tremendous service to the Society and we want to make sure that it is not a thankless endeavor.

The Society is also excited to announce that Joshua Held will receive a First Book Assistance Grant for his monograph Bold Conscience: Luther to Shakespeare to Milton, which will be published by the University of Alabama Press in the new series Strode Studies in Early Modern Literature and Culture. We are delighted to let our members know of this forthcoming book, which contains chapters on Areopagitica, Eikonoklastes, and Paradise Lost. This is also a timely occasion to inform any of our members who expect to publish a book in the near future that our First Book Assistance Grant program is up and running. For more information, please visit  https://miltonsociety.net/msa-first-book-assistance-program-2/

Revised Procedure for Nominating Scholarship for Awards

In order to reduce the considerable burden on the awards committee, the Officers and Executive Committee have decided to implement a new procedure for nominating books, collections, and essays for our various awards. Only works that are nominated or self-nominated will receive consideration. This planned change was announced at last year’s annual meeting, and will be implemented for the first time in the next awards cycle (that is, for all books, collections, and essays published in calendar year 2021). To nominate or self-nominate, please send an email to MiltonSocietySec@gmail.com.

If you are nominating your own monograph, please inquire if your publisher would be willing to provide three review copies. If so, you can request to have them shipped (or ship them) to me at my office mailbox:

Eric Song, c/o Swarthmore English
500 College Ave., LPAC 202
Swarthmore PA 19081

I will then ship the books to the members of the awards committee, ensuring their anonymity. Please do nominate your book even if your publisher is unable to provide review copies; the committee will read your work in PDF format.


A Musical Sendoff

A few months ago, Will Poole let me know of his work on an exciting hybrid project bringing together musical performance, poetic recitation, and scholarship. The Fretwork Viol Consort performed the Sinfonias of the Portuguese converso composer Leonora Duarte (1610-1678?); this performance was paired with Simon Callow reading from portions of Paradise Lost. Will provided a scholarly perspective that raised questions concerning seventeenth-century religious toleration, linking Duarte and Milton to Baruch Spinoza. For more about this project in Will’s own words, you can watch this YouTube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuTnaWiEQLc

For a recording of Fretwork’s performance interspersed with readings from Paradise Lost please visit https://www.fretwork.co.uk/paradise. I am very pleased to close my letter by passing along this occasion for listening, meditating, and thinking.



On behalf of the Executive Committee,

Eric B. Song
Secretary