ABSTRACT

While some scholars have claimed that Milton blocks feminine creativity, others have characterized his attitude toward gender as ambivalent and his self-representation as even possessing gender fluidity. This article examines how a contemporary female poet's strong reading of Milton's Sonnet 19 demonstrates an extensive poetic engagement with what she takes to be Milton's autobiographical expression of his reaction to blindness. Monica Youn's Blackacre meditates on Sonnet 19's end rhymes and uses the legal term for hypothetical land, “blackacre,” as a metaphor for articulating the history of the female body as the unspoken transmitter of the masculinist power structure enshrined in law. Youn transforms Milton's sonnet, merging the ordeal of her infertility with Milton's experience of blindness. In so doing, Youn resituates Sonnet 19 as a vital part of a tradition of feminine creativity, discovering Milton's potential significance for poets negotiating questions of gender and poetic making.

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