English Lecture “Paradise Lost” January 18, 2011
Heterocosm (other word)
Of aims and the man, I sing” (delayed verb)
“Wars of truth”
St. Augustine: Alienation (distance from God)
I + II (hell/chaos), III, IV, V (Earth, Heaven), Flashback to war in Heaven, Creation of Adam
and Eve, Earth - IX (Eden/Fall), X, XI, XII (Consequences of the Fall)
Hero (Adam? Satan? Christ?)
Conventions: Catalogues, Debated, Games, Wars, Homeric, Similes
* * * *
Paradise Lost by John Milton
- Poem that asks us the question: Where did we come from? Why do roses have thorns, why do
we have to work, why do we have to die, why do we have to spend so much of our time working?
Why are winters in Canada so cold; and why are the summers so hot? Why can’t it just be the
same all the time?
- What in heaven’s name is going on here? Why do all these things exist and why are they the
way they are?
Background and John Milton’s Life
- Milton was born in London; his father was a banker, mother was a social worker/caregiver and
was responsible for Milton’s interests in social issues.
- Protestant. Paradise Lost is the great Protestant epic and the last great Renaissance Poem.
- Milton encouraged to study the Bible which he would do late into the night.
- Milton had the blindness associated with epic poets. Blindness suggests insight, the ability to
see into things, beyond reality as it is.
- Milton learned Hebrew, French, Greek, Latin at a Christian-Humanist school.
- Throughout the poem he makes allusions to works of literature in different languages.
- He has a Christian subject (Adam and Eve) but places it within a classical context (epic)
- In college he was a bit of a rebel; called effeminate looking. Took him 7 years to finish his
- Went on a tour of Europe and met important people: Galileo (on house arrest because of his
views of the world)
- 1640 - death. Milton comes back to England where the Wars of Truth was going on. Main
people were the Protestants and Puritans. Protestants were arguing against traditionalists.
Milton was a Puritan. He believed in returning to the Bible, returning religion to its Biblical
basis. He wrote pamphlets on education, marriage/divorce, censorship.
- Important: His fascination with the political world and political ‘types’ orators, propagandists.
And he pursues an active life in society because of his Christian Humanist views.
- To him, society is a group of individuals who are free to make choices. Right Reason is the
engine that makes communities healthy. English Lecture “Paradise Lost” January 18, 2011
-p.712-714 “seeming pleasures” and “reason is but choosing” very important
- Adam and Eve are faced with temptations, with the ability to do right or do wrong. The notion
of choice is the idea that evil and good are polar opposites, but they exist in a spectrum from
ultimate good to complete evil.
- By making wrong choices, we are taken closer and closer to complete alienation, evil.
- Adam and Eve also have to choose between their own freedom and the acceptance of authority.
- Because Milton was a Puritan/Protestant; in many ways he was a rebel figure, He sided with
Oliver Cromwell during the Revolution and was on the list to be executed on 1666 but he was let
- An epic is a huge form; it takes us into another world. This can happen because it’s
comprehensive and encyclopedic. It tries to contain a whole new civilization.
- Paradis Lost is a compendium of theological, religious, political facts. The consequence of this