[Milton-L] Milton and the intellectus agens

Feisal Mohamed f.mohamed00 at gmail.com
Fri Nov 14 18:17:50 EST 2014

Dear Milton-L

Fort those interested, Taylor and Francis informs me that the first 50
people to use the link below may access the online version of my article
"Milton's Enmity toward Islam and the *Intellectus Agens." * This will
appear in a 2015 special issue of *English Studies *on Milton and Islam,
co-edited by Francois-Xavier Gleyzon and David Currell. The link and an
abstract are below

This is not exactly a foretaste of door-crashing Black Friday offers, but I
hope it will be of some benefit to Milton-L subscribers with no
institutional access to *English Studies*.

Best to all,
Feisal Mohamed


“The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives
can be reduced”, Carl Schmitt famously pronounced, “is that between friend
and enemy.” Milton's politics are often premised on a distinction between
the amity of the enlightened few and a benighted global majority often
associated with the East, and specifically with Islam. The distinction is
articulated most clearly in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, which
declares that an “Englishman forgetting all laws, human, civil and
religious … is no better than a Turk, a Sarasin, a Heathen”; it also
informs the sustained association of Satan with barbarous Middle Eastern
rule in Paradise Lost. The animosities reflect in many ways growing contact
with the Islamic world arising with the expansion of English trade—at times
rapid, at times halting, always contested—contact that also pressed home
the awareness, expressed by Milton's friend Roger Williams in The Hireling
Ministrie None of Christs, that Muslims significantly outnumbered
Christians in the period. Over his career, Milton's cosmopolitanism, like
his nationalism, becomes characterized by an ever more pronounced sense of
the worldly power of the benighted majority, occasioning an emphasis on the
inward turn of the enlightened few. But in a way that is most visible in
the invocation to light in Paradise Lost, the language of Milton's inward
turn draws on the intellectus agens tradition with its roots in Islamic
philosophy. This article explores these roots and examines their potential
influence on Milton's poetry. Is Milton consciously drawing on al-Farabi
and Ibn Sina, or is his engagement of this category only a response to such
contemporaries as John Smith? Has he distinguished himself from falsafa, or
has he developed an idea of the enlightened subject that has admitted an
enemy within? Exploring these questions might reorient the intellectual
history informing Milton's anthropology, and also complicate the
Islamophobic language in which he indulges with unsettling frequency.
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