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Surprise – The Poetics of the Unexpected from Milton to Austen - Cornell Scholarship Online
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Surprise: The Poetics of the Unexpected from Milton to Austen

Christopher R. Miller


Today, in the era of the spoiler alert, “surprise” in fiction is primarily associated with an unexpected plot twist, but in earlier usage the word had darker and more complex meanings. Originally denoting a military ambush or physical assault, surprise went through a major semantic shift in the eighteenth century: from violent attack to pleasurable experience, and from external event to internal feeling. This book studies that change as it took shape in literature ranging from Paradise Lost through the novels of Jane Austen. The book argues that writers of the period exploited and arbitrated t ... More

Keywords: surprise, violence, allegory, formal realism, aesthetics, fiction, novel, poetry, Paradise Lost

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2015 Print ISBN-13: 9780801453694
Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016 DOI:10.7591/cornell/9780801453694.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Christopher R. Miller, author
Associate Professor of English, the College of Staten Island (CUNY)