Department of English

University of Toronto

Stevens, Paul

Paul Stevens Paul Stevens (2)
Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor, University of Toronto St. George
UTSG Office Phone: 416-946-3685
UTSG Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street, Room 628
On leave July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022
Faculty Bookshelf  

Teaching and Research 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 Paul Stevens was until recently the Chair of the Department and Canada Research Chair in Early Modern Literature & Culture. He is the 2022 Honored Scholar of the Milton Society of America. During 2015-16, he was the Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford. His primary area of teaching and research is Milton and seventeenth-century literature, especially as that area illuminates colonialism and nationalism, secularism and religious change, literary theory and history. Professor Stevens’s 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. Viviana Comensoli, 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’s latest book is The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and War (Co-ed. David Loewenstein) which came out in 2021. He is currently working on Sola Gratia: English Literature and the Secular Ways of Grace for which he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and which analyzes the ways in which the religious doctrine ofgrace 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, Professor Stevens was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2012. He is the founder of the annual international Canada Milton Seminar and a passionate graduate and undergraduate teacher – his teaching prizes include 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.

The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Warco-ed with David Loewenstein (Cambridge University Press, 2021) 

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:

Pietas in Patriam: Milton and Classical Patriotism.” Humanities. Forthcoming 2022

“Milton’s Shakespeare: Imitation and Originality,” Renaissance and Reformation. Forthcoming 2022.

“Nationalism’s Double-Bind: Individualism and the Global Implications of Milton’s Nationalism.” Milton Studies 63:1 (2021)

Henry V and the Pleasures of War.” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

“The Unending Charity of Cultural Memory.” Paperback reprint in The New Elizabethan Age. London: Bloomsbury, 2020.

“Freedom and the Fall.” Introduction to Erin Shields, Paradise Lost: A Theatrical Adaptation. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2018.

“Raphael’s Condescension: Paradise Lost, Jane Austen, and the Secular Displacement of Grace,” Milton and the Long Restoration. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Henry VIII, Hamlet, and the Question of Religion: A Post-Secular Perspective,” Shakespeare and Early Modern Religion. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

“The Pre-Secular Politics of Paradise Lost.” Cambridge Companion to “Paradise Lost,” Cambridge University Press, 2014.

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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