ABSTRACT

In the twentieth century, John Milton has often been described as, if not a Jew, at least a Jewish non-Jew. This essay proposes to reverse the ordinary procedure and ask not what in Milton’s life or work might connect him to Judaism, but what in the twentieth century newly drove his readers to imagine him as Jewish. As case studies, the article’s author takes two writers, Raphael Judah Zwi Werblowsky and Allen Grossman, who separately connect Milton to the Holocaust. In both cases, this essay argues, to Judaize Milton is not to place but to estrange him, to name his poetry’s alienated modernity; its beginning after the social bonds of nation, king, and sacrament have dissolved; and its power to displace readers and open them to a similarly illuminating exile.

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