Why did creative writers in early modern England write so forcefully about the relationship between aesthetics and morality? How did they imagine creative work to reflect religious categories and moral expectations? In his new book, Sinister Aesthetics: The Appeal of Evil in Early Modern Literature
(Palgrave, 2017), Joel Elliot Slotkin
, a professor of English at Towson University, explores how Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare and Milton considered the appeal of evil, and why their writing moralized about aesthetics only to create characters or contexts in which that moral purpose seemed to be undermined. In this ground-breaking study, Slotkin explains how these writers created a “sinister aesthetics,” in which to test their readers, and to persuade their readers that the fall of humanity into sin had aesthetic as well as moral and noetic consequences.
Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests focus on the history of puritanism and evangelicalism, and he is the author most recently of John Owen and English Puritanism
(Oxford University Press, 2016).