Lana Cable

Associate Professor Emerita


Ph.D., Johns Hopkins

16th and 17th Century English Literature, Drama and Culture; Milton, Shakespeare, Swift, Augustan Satire

Carnal Rhetoric by Lana Cable"Carnal Rhetoric is a brave and imaginative book, offering a stimulating reappraisal of Milton's prose style while challenging the present tyranny of custom in Milton studies."
-- Margaret Kean, Notes and Queries

"Cable's ambitious book offers a general theory of metaphor as well as some stimulating and ingenious readings of the prose works and of Samson Agonistes."
-- David Norbrook, Times Literary Supplement

"This is an exciting book to read. Cable's Carnal Rhetoric is one of the foremost statements concerning the 'theory' of affective stylistics and the contribution that it provides to our understanding of Milton's writings and, by implication, the writings of others."
-- Albert Labriola, Duquesne


Ph.D., English: The Johns Hopkins University, 1986. Primary field: English Renaissance. Dissertation director: Stanley Fish.

M.A., English: The University of Denver, 1974. Primary field: Restoration and 18th Century Satire. Thesis director, Gerald Chapman.

B.A., The University of Wyoming, 1965. Major: English. Minors: French, Philosophy, Journalism.



(In progress) The Making of Early Modern Free Conscience, a book on the language that shaped popular thinking about freedom of conscience in 17th century England.

Carnal Rhetoric: Milton's Iconoclasm and the Poetics of Desire (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1995). Winner of the James Holly Hanford Award for the Most Distinguished Scholarly Book on John Milton.


“Barker’s Mahommedan” presented at revival performance of Harley Granville Barker’s The Madras House, dir. Gus Kaikkonen, by Mint Theater, February 3, 2007, New York City; to be included in Granville Barker Reclaimed, edited by Jonathan Bank (Mint Theater Company, Granville Press: New York, forthcoming 2007).

“Milton’s Toleration and the Secularizing Community of Conscience,” in Milton and Toleration, edited by Sharon Achinstein and Elizabeth Sauer (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2007).

“Introduction,” Milton in the Age of Fish: Essays on Authorship, Text, and Terrorism, edited by Albert Labriola and Michael Lieb (Duquesne University Press, 2006).

“Staging Orientalism in the Early Modern Free Conscience Debate,” in Islam and the Renaissance, edited by Maria Gallo Stampino and Jane Connolly (collection in review).

“Popular Secularism and the Idea of Islam on the Early Modern English Stage,” presented at the University of Reading (England) Conference “Islam and the Renaissance”, 14-16 July 2004.

“Free Conscience and the Islamic Connection,” presented at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Studies: “Islam”, University of Miami, 21-22 February 2003.

“Why Americans Can’t Give Them Democracy” <> , a response to Milton Viorst, “Why They Don’t Want Democracy,” Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2003.

“Reading Milton: Why Here, Why Now, and How”: presented at the School of Foreign Languages at Peking University, Beijing, December 25, 2001.

“Keeping up with the Seventeenth Century”: presented at the School of Foreign Languages at Peking University, Beijing, December 24, 2001.

“Licensing Metaphor: Parker, Marvell and the Debate Over Conscience,” chapter in Elizabeth Sauer and Jennifer Anderson, eds., Anatomy of Readers in Early Modern England (University of Pennsylvania Press, Pittsburgh, 2001).

“What They Were Reading (And Why They Were Reading It) Instead of Areopagitica,” Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism, Vol. 23, No. 1 (April 2000). Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.: Ilford, Essex, U.K.

"Lemuel Gulliver's Colonial Critique," presented at Jai Hind College, The University of Mumbai, Bombay, India on December 11, 2000.

"Eve and the Problem of Woman in Paradise Lost, I & II" presented at Jai Hind College of The University of Mumbai, Bombay, India on December 7 & 9, 2000. AREAS OF RESEARCH

Literary dimensions of Early Modern English political thought:

Politics of literature & aesthetics of politics

The role of literacy in shaping national identity

Conscience, individual autonomy and the problem of choice

English colonialism and early modern foreign policy

Religious reform and its political dimensions

Affective stylistics, poetics, metaphor theory


English Literature and Culture of the 16th, 17th and early 18th Centuries

Reformation Literature, Literature of the English Revolution

Major Author courses: Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Donne, Swift

Early Modern Culture and Political Discourse

English Drama of the Renaissance and Restoration


While researching the free conscience debate in early modern England, I discovered how revelatory literary reflections on seemingly conventional political topics could be. My new graduate course "Representing Islam in Early Modern English Drama" takes a fresh critical look at the use of Muslim stereotypes on the 16th and 17th century stage. Too varied to be mere stereotypes, these figures reveal an English cultural anxiety deeper than is accounted for by pointing to perceived foreign threats or alien cultural influences. Although the stereotypes in some ways reconfirmed English Christian identity, they also disturbed complacencies about that identity in a context of rapid social and economic change. Muslim stereotypes in fact provided dramatists with a means of exploring the threat rising from within the English Christian community: the alarming yet increasingly compelling demand for individual autonomy that was beginning to affect every sphere of national life, whether political, religious, economic or social.

Although I have always been interested in the broader cultural and political issues that inform English literature, my current inquiries into cross-cultural articulations were first stimulated by discussing Milton's "Paradise Lost" with Indian students during a lecture visit to Bombay. From those keen readers, I learned that reading Milton from within a political and ethical framework informed by the Judeo-Christian literary tradition differs dramatically from reading Milton from within a framework informed by Hindu or Buddhist traditions. Moreover, these differences are further complicated by India's colonial history and the postcolonial legacy of English education and political culture. Since that first illuminating discussion in a distant classroom, several similar opportunities have convinced me of the rewards to be gained from cross-cultural teaching and learning. Hence I strongly support the University at Albany English Department's emerging cross-cultural emphases, convinced not only that they will spur intellectual adventure but also that they can enrich the areas of expertise that we already enjoy.

Intellectual adventure has energized my commitment to English studies from the time I first entered the profession. Although I majored in English as a Wyoming college student, it was not until I had achieved success as a film maker in Colorado that sheer love of language drew me back into the academy. Meanwhile, working with film had taught me valuable lessons about the visual imagination–lessons that ultimately helped me to synthesize my metaphor theory, as set out in the opening chapter of Carnal Rhetoric: Milton's Iconoclasm and the Poetics of Desire. Since completing that book, I have continued to trace the political, cultural, aesthetic and psychological dynamics of metaphor by turning to the writings of Milton's reformist forebears and contemporaries. These thinkers employed metaphor as an instrument of visionary analysis, striving to revolutionize the social order by shaping words to reify their faith in the transforming authority and power of free conscience. Thus, despite what might appear on the surface to be a radical shift in my own career emphasis–from visual to verbal media, and from the world of business to the world of academics,–my professional life has in fact been devoted throughout to the humanist task of understanding and supporting the work of imagination.