Urban, David V. “Surprised by Richardson: C. S. Lewis, Jonathan Richardson, and Their Comparative Influence on Stanley Fish’s Surprised by Sin: The Reader in ‘Paradise Lost,'” Appositions: Studies in Renaissance/Early Modern Literature and Culture 5 (2012): 22-35.
Urban critiques the idea that Fish’s Surprised by Sin is “a methodologically radical update” of A Preface to “Paradise Lost” by Lewis. Though both are responding to a critic named Waldock, Urban maintains that the arguments and conclusions of Fish and Lewis are substantially different. For instance Lewis was critical of the poetic success of Milton’s portrayal of the Father in book and also criticized books 11 and 12. Fish defends all three. Lewis denies the devotional value of the book whereas Fish argues “throughout that ‘for the Christian reader Paradise Lost is a means of confirming him in his faith’ (55).” The agreement shared by Lewis and Fish that certain critics were in error does not translate into positive agreement about their interpretation of the poem. Instead of dependence on Lewis, Urban argues that Fish was significantly influenced by Johnathan Richardson the Elder (1665-1745) in his interpretation (which is borne out by Fish’s repeated and lengthy quotations of Richardson).