Select an author from The Literary 100 list and give a brief (100-200 word) statement about the author's overall importance. I chose Edgar Allen Poe, but feel free to pick anyone you like.
The work of John Milton represents the ultimate synthesis of the two foundational elements of Western culture: Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity. It is in his sublimely skillful fusion of such disparate elements that Milton's true greatness lies.
In his timeless works, Milton tapped into the rich seam of pagan literature to give life to his Christian moral vision. In writing his magnum opus Paradise Lost he consciously set out to emulate the epic visions of Homer and Virgil, not just in their massive scale, but also in the acuteness of their deep understanding of human nature. Milton takes us on a journey through biblical Paradise, but as with Dante in the Divine Comedy, it was Virgil who led him to the gates.
In his work Samson Agonistes, Milton takes the well-known story of Samson from the Old Testament and turns it into a Greek tragedy, complete with brutal violence, bloodshed, and a chorus. Milton does full justice to the Scripture and to the Greeks while subtly changing both. Once again, he achieves a truly remarkable synthesis, combining a thundering Christian morality with the catharsis of Greek tragedy to create something new that transcends both elements.
Milton's work lives on in each new generation, rising as it does from humanity's very deepest roots.