Department of English

University of Toronto

Stevens, Paul

Paul Stevens Paul Stevens (2)
Professor and Canada Research Chair in Early Modern Literature & Culture
Placement Officer; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor
Office Phone: 416 946-3685
Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 628
Faculty Bookshelf  
Office Hours and/or Leave Status: By appointment

Teaching Interests:

Milton; Early Modern Literature and Culture; Nationalism; Colonialism; the Bible; Modern British Literature; Literary Theory and History


B.A. Hons (London), M.A. (Carleton), Ph.D. (Toronto), FRSC

Paul Stevens is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Early Modern Literature & Culture. His primary area of teaching and research is Milton and seventeenth-century literature, especially as that area illuminates poetic practice, colonialism and nationalism, both then and now, secularism and religious change, literary theory and history. Professor Stevens’ first book Imagination and the Presence of Shakespeare in “Paradise Lost” (Wisconsin 1985) examined the way Shakespeare appears to function in Milton’s writing as a metonym for imagination, so much so that as Milton strove to rationalize the psychology of religious faith, he played a critical role in facilitating the Romantic idealization of imagination. In a subsequent sequence of articles, the two most influential of which remain “‘Leviticus Thinking’ and the Rhetoric of Early Modern Colonialism,” Criticism 35:3 (1993) and “Paradise Lost and the Colonial Imperative,” Milton Studies 34 (1996), his focus turned to colonialism and post-colonial theory, most notably showing how Scripture gave Western colonialism its peculiar character and challenging the conventional view that Milton was “a poet against empire.” In Discontinuities: New Essays on Renaissance Literature and Criticism (Co-ed, Toronto 1998), he began his continuing engagement with the genesis and significance of the New Historicism, two later articles, “Pretending to be Real: Stephen Greenblatt and the Legacy of Popular Existentialism,” New Literary History 33:2 (2002) and “The New Presentism and its Discontents,” Rethinking Historicism (Cambridge 2012), identifying the shortcomings of New Historicism but suggesting how liberating historicist thinking more broadly construed can be. His interest in colonialism led to nationalism and his prize-winning collection, Early Modern Nationalism and Milton’s England (Co-ed, Toronto 2008), fore-grounded the Janus-faced nature of modern nationalism. Professor Stevens is currently working on two book-length projects, Milton Imagining England and Sola Gratia: English Literature and the Secular Ways of Grace for which he was awarded a 2012-13 Guggenheim Fellowship and which analyzes the ways in which the religious doctrine of grace morphs into all kinds of surprisingly different, secular forms of cultural surplus. A former President of the Milton Society of America and Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, he was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the founder and coordinator of the annual international Canada Milton Seminar and a passionate graduate and undergraduate teacher, recent prizes including the Northrop Frye Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research (2008), Finalist for the TVO Best Lecturer Competition (2009), and the President’s Teaching Award (2010).

Faculty Bookshelf  

Sola Gratia: English Literature and the Secular Ways of Grace. In progress.

Early Modern Nationalism and Milton’s England, ed. with David Loewenstein (University of Toronto Press, 2008). *Winner of the 2009 Irene Samuel Memorial Prize.

Discontinuities: New Essays on Renaissance Literature and Criticism, ed. with Viviana Comensoli  (University of Toronto Press, 1998).

Imagination and the Presence of Shakespeare in “Paradise Lost” (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

Some Recent Articles:
“Raphael’s Condescension: Paradise Lost, Jane Austen, and the Secular Displacement of Grace,” Milton and the Long Restoration, ed. Ann Coiro and Blair Hoxby (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2015).

Henry VIII, Hamlet, and the Question of Religion: A Post-Secular Perspective,” Shakespeare and the Question of Religion, ed. David Loewenstein and Michael Witmore (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2014).

“Churchill’s War Horse: Children’s Literature and the Pleasures of War.” Approaching War: From Gardens to Trenches, ed. Peter Hunt and Lissa Paul (Ashgate, forthcoming 2014).

“Obnoxious Satan: Milton, Neo-Roman Justice, and the Burden of Grace.” Imagining Justice in Early Modern England, ed. Don Beecher et al (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming 2014).

“The Pre-Secular Politics of Paradise Lost.” Cambridge Companion to “Paradise Lost,” ed. Louis Schwartz (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

“Lament for a Nation? Milton’s Readie and Easie Way and the Turn to Satire.” The Oxford Handbook of Literature and the English Revolution, ed. Laura Knoppers (Oxford University Press, 2012).

“The New Presentism and its Discontents” Rethinking Historicism from Shakespeare to Milton, ed. Ann Coiro and Thomas Fulton (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

“Milton in the Far North” Milton and the Questions of History, ed. Feisal Mohamed and Mary Nyquist (University of Toronto Press, 2012).

“Archipelagic Criticism and its Limits: Milton, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the Matter of England.” European Legacy 17:2 (2012): 151-64.

Prize-winning Articles:

“Literary Studies and the Turn to Religion: Milton Reading Badiou.” Religion & Literature 45:1(2013). *Winner of the 2011 CSRS Montaigne Prize.

“Paradise Lost and the Colonial Imperative.” Milton Studies 34 (1996). *Winner of the Milton Society of America’s 1997 Hanford Award for the Most Distinguished Article of the Year.

“Milton and the Icastic Imagination.” Milton Studies 20 (1984). *Winner of the Milton Society of America’s 1985 Hanford Award for the Most Distinguished Article of the Year.

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