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Literary Collections Essays

The Return of Eden

Five Essays on Milton's Epics

by (author) Northrop Frye

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2019
Essays, Drama, Canadian
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    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
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"I am talking about Milton because I enjoy talking about Milton," This statement made by Northrop Frye at the beginning of The Return of Eden sets the tone for the entire book. Presented informally, it is filled with the vast learning and demonstrates the imaginative magnitude we have come to expect of this distinguished critic: the brilliant argument and the pleasantly witty presentation will inform and delight.


The first four essays in the volume deal with Paradise Lost. Frye discusses the form and tradition of the epic, the rôle of the Son of God, a construction of the cosmology of the poem as a framework for its imagery, the reasons for Milton's presentation of the behaviour of Adam and Eve (and by analogy of human society) before and after the fall. He also deals with Milton as a revolutionary who, disillusioned with the failure of the English people a free commonwealth, was finally compelled to find the true revolution within the individual. These four chapters are based on the Centennial Lecture Series which marked the one-hundredth anniversary of Huron College, University of Western Ontario.


The fifth essay in the book, "Revolt in the Desert," discusses the structure and content of Paradise Regained.

About the author

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was one of Canada's most distinguished men of letters. His first book, Fearful Symmetry, published in 1947, transformed the study of the poet William Blake, and over the next forty years he transformed the study of literature itself. Among his most influential books are Anatomy of Criticism (1957), The Educated Imagination (1963), The Bush Garden (1971), and The Great Code (1982). Northrop Frye on Shakespeare (1986) won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. A professor at the University of Toronto, Frye gained an international reputation for his wide-reaching critical vision. He lectured at universities around the world and received many awards and honours, including thirty-six honorary degrees.

Northrop Frye's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Milton's poems and Milton's vision of human liberty have kindled Frye's imagination and have caused him to write some marvelous passages … some of Frye's greatest virtues are much in evidence here."


Journal of English and Germanic Philology


"For those who know the work of Professor Northrop Frye ... this will be a further example of his unobtrusive learning, his wit, and his singluar power of critical systematisation."


British Book News

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