literature, John Milton, Paradise Lost, power, the human body, literary criticism
Christianity | Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Poetry | Social and Behavioral Sciences
John Milton's Christian epic Paradise Lost is concerned with the story of the fall of man. The poem chronicles Satan's revolt in heaven all the way through man's eventual expulsion from Eden, all so that Milton may achieve his goal to "justify the ways of God to man." The story is told through a first-person narrator, one with an omniscient view into the internal workings of all characters involved. However, this narrative is limited in that it can illustrate only "by likening spiritual to corporeal forms," which leaves many questions yet unanswered. We can never see the face of the Father, nor can we understand the nature of the angels, whose substance exceeds the limits of our imagination. It is from this that my inquiry stems: what is it about the human body, a body that functions somehow outside of our control and that controls us likewise, that makes us separates us from the divine. How do angelic bodies differ from ours, and what delineates out bodies' forms? The lacking ontology of these bodies and their material seems to me to be an intentional device employed by the narrative to elevate these differences, yet their meaning is left obscured. By carefully tracing the changing and evolving of bodies within the text, we may find that references to bodies indicate a division, a severing in internal mechanisms--the purest bodies are those with the fewest limitations and a strong, undivided will.
Department 1 Awarding Honors Status
English: Literature and Writing
Arbuss, C. (2013). Form, Substance, and Power: The Body in "Paradise Lost" (Undergraduate honors thesis, University of Redlands). Retrieved from https://inspire.redlands.edu/cas_honors/466
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License