Elizabeth Sauer, Professor in Brock’s Department of English Language and Literature, is keeping John Milton’s legacy alive.
Milton, a poet, ‘man of letters’ and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell, was a driving force behind Western Europe’s Reformation.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the movement — a defining moment in church and political history.
Earlier this year, Sauer was appointed president of the Milton Society of America (MSA), a community of around 500 scholars and researchers from around the globe.
“The poems Milton wrote have laid the groundwork for a lot of modern thinking,” says Sauer, who is the MSA’s first female Canadian president.
“Anybody who’s interested in theology probably has to grapple with Milton,” she explains. “Anybody who’s interested in history, especially in the championing of liberty in the personal, religious, civic, political and domestic spheres needs to take on Milton.
“Even the American revolution was influenced quite heavily by the thought of Milton over a century beforehand.”
One of Sauer’s many tasks will be to oversee the MSA’s 70th-year jubilee campaign, which includes a fundraising effort to support young scholars to pursue Milton studies.
Sauer is recognized as a world expert on Milton. In 2014, she published Milton, Toleration and Nationhood, a seminal book that examines Milton’s many works – the most famous including Areopagitica and Paradise Lost – to see how Milton developed concepts of toleration and liberty that informed discourses of English nation-building.
The book was the result of Sauer’s Killam Fellowship, an award that comes with two years of funding to focus exclusively on one’s area of research.
The Killam Fellowship is a highly prestigious honour. At the time she won it in 2009, Sauer was one of only nine scholars in Canada to get the award.