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Core Course: English Literature/ 2013-14

Target population: 1
st
year students, 2
nd
semester
Speiali!ation: "omanian/#renh-English
Course $esigner: Elena %utoesu
&'(T 1
E')L(S* +&"(T,'(S-
./*' -(LT/'0S PARADISE LOST 112234
The Puritans wanted a purer kind of Christianity than the Reformation had brought to the
country. They dreamt about that sort of Christianity which would not be tolerant; an austere
religion which forbade easy pleasures and punished vice in the harshest possible way. The
Protestantism of the Established Church derived a good deal from the German uther! whose
"reforms" did not move too far away from traditional Christianity; but the Puritans followed
#ohn Calvin of Geneva! who taught that free will did not e$ist and that men were predestined
from the beginning of time to go to either heaven or hell.
Puritanism was a variety of Protestantism! and Puritans were heirs of the Reformation
inaugurated by %artin uther&s seminal re'reading of Christianity&s foundational te$ts.
Puritans affirmed the great slogans of uther&s Reformation ( sola fide, sola gratia, sola
scriptura; faith alone! grace alone! scripture alone ( though there was disagreement over
e$actly what these slogans entailed. ike uther! they were intensely preoccupied with
personal salvation! and convinced that God pardoned sinners in response to simple faith in
Christ&s redeeming sacrifice on the Cross.
)ollowing the Reformer! they repudiated the penitential system of Roman Catholicism
( the mass! confession! absolution! penance! indulgences! pilgrimage! prayer to the saints!
prayer for the dead! and purgatory. *ndeed! most Puritans shared uther&s conviction that the
Papacy was the +ntichrist predicted in the ,ook of Revelation. +s a Puritan who valued the
,ible more than anything else! #ohn %ilton considered the ,ible -the only ,ook left us of
divine authority.. %ilton was disappointed with Restoration and later on! he re/ected
Puritanism and condemned all earthly tyrannies in the prophetic books concluding Paradise
Lost.
*t is likely that #ohn %ilton began writing his superb epic a year or two before the
restoration of the monarchy in 0112 and continued it in the years immediately following that
event. %ilton&s epic is pre'eminently a poem about knowing and choosing ( for the %iltonic
,ard! for his characters! and for the reader. *t foregrounds education! a lifelong concern of
%ilton&s and of special importance to him after the Restoration as a means to help produce
discerning! virtuous! liberty'loving human beings and citi3ens. 4nlike any other literary or
theological treatment of the )all story! almost half the poem is given over to the formal
education of +dam and Eve! by Raphael before and by %ichael after the )all. God himself
takes on the role of educator as he engages in dialogue with his 5on about humankind&s fall
and redemption 67.82(91:; and with +dam over his re<uest for a mate 68.7:=(>:0;. +dam
and Eve&s dialogues with each other involve them in an ongoing process of self'education
about themselves and their world. %ilton educates his readers by e$ercising them in
imaginative apprehension! rigorous /udgment! and choice. ,y setting his poem in relation to
other great epics and works in other genres he involves readers in a criti<ue of the values
associated with those other heroes and genres! as well as with issues of politics and theology.
%ilton&s allusions in the Proems and throughout the poem continually acknowledge
structural and verbal debts to the great classical models for epic or epic'like poems ( ?omer!
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@irgil! ?esiod! Avid! ucan! ucretius ( and to such moderns as +riosto! Tasso! Bu ,artas!
CamoCns! and 5penser. %ilton incorporates many epic topics and conventions from the
?omeric and @irgilian epic traditionD an epic statement of theme! invocations both to the
%use 4rania and to the great creating 5pirit of God! an epic <uestion! a beginning in medias
res! a classical epic hero in 5atan! a ?omeric catalogue of 5atan&s generals! councils in ?ell
and in ?eaven! epic pageants and games! and supernatural powers ( God! the 5on! and good
and evil angels. +lso! a fierce battle in ?eaven pitting loyal angels against the rebel forces!
replete with chariot clashes! taunts and vaunts! hill'hurlings! and the single combats of heroes;
narratives of past actions in Raphael&s accounts of the Ear in ?eaven and the Creation; and
%ichael&s prophetic narrative of biblical history to come.
Fet the ,ard claims in the opening Proem that he intends to surpass all those earlier
epics! that his -adventrous 5ong. will soar -+bove th&Aonian %ount. 60.07! 0:;. ?e clarifies
what this means in the Proem to ,ook G! as he takes pride in having eschewed -Earrs!
hitherto the onely +rgument H ?eroic deem&d. and in having defined a new heroic standard!
-the better fortitude H Af Patience and ?eroic %artyrdom. 6G.98(79;. ?e has indeed given
over the traditional epic sub/ect! wars and empire! and the traditional epic hero as the epitome
of courage and battle prowess. ?is protagonists are a domestic pair! the scene of their action is
a pastoral garden! and their primary challenge is! -under long obedience tried!. to make
themselves! their marital relationship! and their garden ( the nucleus of the human world (
ever more perfect. *n this they fail! but at length they learn to understand and identify with the
new heroic standard embodied in a series of heroes of faith and especially in the -greater
man!. Christ! who will redeem humankind. )or this radically new epic sub/ect! as the Proems
to ,ooks 0! 7! =! and G state! %ilton hopes to obtain from the divine source of both truth and
creativity the illumination and collaboration necessary to conceive a sub/ect at once truer and
more heroic than any other. ?e makes bold claims to originality as an author! but an author
who is also a prophetic bard.
*n addition to the new epic sub/ect! %ilton&s poem holds other surprises for its readers!
then and now. )irst! and most striking! perhaps! is his splendid 5atan! taken by many critics
from the Romantic period to the early decades of the twentieth century as the intended or
unintended hero of the poem. %ilton presents him! especially in ,ooks 0 and 9! as a figure of
power! awesome si3e! proud and courageous bearing! regal authority! and! above all!
magnificent rhetoricD this is no paltry medieval devil with grotes<ue physical features and a
tail. ?e is described in terms of constant allusions to the greatest heroes ( +chilles! Adysseus!
+eneas! Prometheus! and others ( in regard to the usual epic traitsD physical prowess! battle
courage! anger! fortitude! determination! endurance! leadership! and aristeia or battle glory.
Through that presentation %ilton engages readers in a poem'long e$ploration and redefinition
of heroes and heroism! often by inviting them to discover how 5atan in some ways
e$emplifies but in essence perverts those classical models. %oreover! 5atan&s moving
language of defiance against tyranny and laments for loss are powerfully attractive! posing
readers the difficult challenge of discerning the discrepancies between 5atan&s noble words
and his motives and actions.
%ilton&s representations of ?ell! ?eaven! and Eden also challenge readers& stereotypes
in his own age and ours. +ll these regions are in processD the physical conditions of the places
are fitted to the beings that inhabit them! but the inhabitants interact with and shape their
environments! creating societies in their own image. ?ell is first presented in traditional
terms! with the fallen angels chained on a lake of fire.
,ut unlike Bante&s Inferno! where the damned are confined within distinct circles to
endure an eternally repeated punishment suited to their particular sins! %ilton presents a
damned society in the making. ?is fallen angels rise up and begin to mine gold and gems!
build a government center! PandImonium! hold a parliament! send 5atan on a mission of
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e$ploration and con<uest! investigate their spacious and varied though sterile landscape!
engage in martial games and parades! perform music! compose epic poems about their own
deeds! and argue hard philosophical <uestions about fate and free will. Their parliament in
,ook 9 presents an archetype of debased and manipulated political assemblies and of
characteristic political rhetoric through the ages. The powerful angelic peers debate issues of
war and peace in the council chamber while the common angels are reduced to pygmy si3e
outside. %oloch! the <uintessential hawk! urges perpetual war at any cost; ,elial counsels
peace through ignominious inaction; %ammon would build up a rival empire in ?ell founded
on riches and magnificence but! ironically! describes that course of action in the language of
republican virtue! as a choice of -?ard liberty before the easie yoke H Af servile Pomp.
69.9:1(=;. Then 5atan sways the council to his will through the agency of his chief minister!
,eel3ebub. The scene closes with 5atan accorded divine honors in an e$aggerated version of
the idolatry %ilton had long associated with the 5tuart ideology of divine kingship.
%ilton&s ?eaven is even more surprisingD instead of the e$pected stasis in perfection!
it is also in process! re<uiring the continued and active choice of good! as Raphael e$plains to
+damD -%y self and all th& +ngelic ?ost that stand H *n sight of God enthron&d! our happie
state H ?old! as you yours! while our obedience holds. 6:.:7:(=;. +s a celestial city that
combines courtly magnificence with the pleasures of nature! it offers an ideal of wholeness
through a mi$ of heroic! georgic! and pastoral modes.
-ilton5s Style
5eeking an -answerable style. for his -great +rgument!. %ilton produced rushing! en/ambed!
blank'verse lines that propel us along with few pauses for line endings or full stops! marked
by elevated diction and comple$ synta$ and by sonorities and sound patternings that make a
magnificent music. ?e was clearly at pains to create an epic language suited to his e$alted
sub/ect! a sublime high style of remarkable range whose energy and power will engulf us
from the beginning. This style is created in part by dense allusiveness to classical myths! to
biblical! historical! and literary names and stories! and to geographical places! ancient and
contemporary! which import into the poem our associations with all those literary and
physical worlds.
%ilton devised for his poem a fle$ible blank'verse line with 6almost always; ten
syllables and a masculine or strong stress at the ends of lines. ,ut the basic iambic rhythm
6five weak and five strong stresses;! is constantly varied by interspersing other rhythmic feet!
so that some lines contain as few as three and others as many as eight strong stresses. The
lines are organi3ed into verse paragraphs of varying length! so that the reader encounters large
units of verse at once! aided in this by %ilton&s characteristic light punctuation. %ilton also
employs great freedom in the placement of caesuras 6the pauses falling within the line; and he
uses en/ambment constantly! so that the sense is carried over from line to line.
%ilton embeds dense layers of meaning in particular words by e$ploiting their atin
or Greek etymological senses. *n the description of the rebel angels hurled from heaven -Eith
hideous ruin!. -ruin. keeps its atin etymological meaning! -falling!. along with its
contemporary sense! -devastation.. Ar in several descriptions of -horrid +rms. -horrid.
means -terrible. but also keeps its atin sense of -bristling. with spikes of flame. +t times
only the atin sense is evoked! as when the rivers of Eden are said to run -Eith ma3ie error.
6>.97G;D -error. here means -wandering!. not -mistake. or -fault.. %ilton often plays with
serious wit on the multiple meanings of a word! as in +dam&s honorific address to Eve! -5ole
partner and sole part of all these /oyes. 6>.>00;! where -sole. first means -only. and then
-uni<ue!. probably with overtones of the homonym! -soul.. ater! in the throes of desperation
after his $$viii Introduction fall! +dam invents a false etymology! deriving -evil. from Eve&s
nameD -A Eve! in evil hour thou didst give eare H To that false Eorm. 6G.021=(8;.
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*nto this elevated but very fle$ible grand epic style! %ilton incorporated a wide range
of other genres with their appropriate stylesD lyrical and dramatic elements! hymns! formal
debates! allegory! solilo<uy! and elegy. *f the %iltonic style is an organ sound! it is produced
from a multitude of stops! even as the %iltonic epic incorporates! in accordance with
Renaissance theory! a veritable encyclopedia of genres.
Paradise Lost and its in6luene
+ poem is not a lecture; a story is not an argument. The way poems and stories work on our
minds is not by logic! but by their capacity to enchant! to e$cite! to move! to inspire. To be
sure! a sound intellectual underpinning helps the work to stand up under intellectual
<uestioning! as Paradise Lost certainly does; but its primary influence is on the imagination.
5o it was! for instance! with the greatest of %ilton&s interpreters! Eilliam ,lake! for whom the
author of Paradise Lost was a lifelong inspiration. J%ilton lovd me in childhood K shewd me
his face!& he claimed! and in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell he wrote what is probably the
most perceptive! and certainly the most succinct! criticism of Paradise LostD JThe reason
%ilton wrote in fetters when he wrote of +ngels K God! and at liberty when of Bevils K ?ell!
is because he was a true Poet and of the Bevil&s party without knowing it.& +nd ,lake&s
continuing and passionate interest in %ilton resulted in a long 6and! frankly! difficult; poem
named after the poet! as well as a series of illustrations to Paradise Lost which are some of
the most delicate and beautiful water'colours he ever did.
Ather poets at the same period felt the influence of %ilton! Eordsworth in particular!
who began one of his sonnets with the wordsD -%iltonL Thou shouldst be living at this hourD
England hath need of thee;. +nd very near the beginning of his own great long poem! The
Prelude! Eordsworth deliberately echoes the phrase in the closing lines of Paradise LostD
-The earth is all before me . . . Mas if he&s taking hold of a torch passed to him by %ilton.
Today! nearly three and a half centuries after Paradise Lost was first published! it is more
influential than ever. Two separate dramatic adaptations have recently played on the stage in
,ritain. *t will not go away.
E7am Topis:
0. )ocus on %ilton"s life and comment on the relationship between his life and his works.
*s the Puritan conte$t of any importance in observing %ilton"s development as a
writerN
9. ?ow can you define %ilton"s style in Paradise LostN Ehat is the metre in Paradise
LostN )ind e$amples in the poem.
7. Bescribe the events in ,ook 0 of Paradise Lost.
%i8liography:
Coffey! #ohn! Paul C. ?. im 6Eds.;. The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism. CambridgeD
Cambridge 4niversity Press! 9228.
Banielson! Bennis. 6ed.; The Cambridge Companion to Milton. CambridgeD Cambridge
4niversity Press! 0G8G.
%ilton! #ohn. Paradise Lost. A Poem in Telve !oo"s. PhiladelphiaD ?ayes and Oell
Publishers! 08:>.
%ilton! #ohn. Paradise Lost. An Illustrated Edition ith an Introduction b# Philip Pullman.
A$fordD A$ford 4niversity Press! 922:.
%ilton! #ohn. Paradise Lost. Edited by ,arbara P. ewalski. ondonD ,lackwell! 922=.
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