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Inside "Paradise Lost"

Inside "Paradise Lost": Reading the Designs of Milton's Epic

David Quint
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hhnv4
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  • Book Info
    Inside "Paradise Lost"
    Book Description:

    Inside "Paradise Lost"opens up new readings and ways of reading Milton's epic poem by mapping out the intricacies of its narrative and symbolic designs and by revealing and exploring the deeply allusive texture of its verse. David Quint's comprehensive study demonstrates how systematic patterns of allusion and keywords give structure and coherence both to individual books ofParadise Lostand to the overarching relationship among its books and episodes. Looking at poems within the poem, Quint provides new interpretations as he takes readers through the major subjects ofParadise Lost-its relationship to epic tradition and the Bible, its cosmology and politics, and its dramas of human choice.

    Quint shows how Milton radically revises the epic tradition and the Genesis story itself by arguing that it is better to create than destroy, by telling the reader to make love, not war, and by appearing to ratify Adam's decision to fall and die with his wife. The Milton of thisParadise Lostis a Christian humanist who believes in the power and freedom of human moral agency. As this indispensable guide and reference takes us inside the poetry of Milton's masterpiece,Paradise Lostreveals itself in new formal configurations and unsuspected levels of meaning and design.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5048-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    The message ofParadise Lostis: make love, not war. The poem that pretends to begin the epic tradition by retelling events that preceded those of all earlier epics would also end the epic genre by condemning its traditional subject matters, war and empire. The central human heroic act of the poem is Adam’s choosing love for Eve, his wife and fellow human being, over obedience to God. In making us think twice at all about this choice, in appearing even to ratify it,Paradise Lostrevises its biblical subject matter just as radically as it revises epic. The Fall...

  5. 1 Milton’s Book of Numbers: Book 1 and Its Catalog
    (pp. 15-37)

    A great deal and nothing happens in the first book ofParadise Lost. Satan and his fellow fallen angels rise from the burning lake of hell and assemble into what appears to be the greatest army ever summoned up by epic poetry. In full battle array, what do these devils do? Having already been defeated in the War in Heaven by an army that was, in fact, twice their own size and that possessed a secret weapon that God finally unleashed in the exploits of the Son, the fallen angels know better than to try again. The devils decide to...

  6. 2 Ulysses and the Devils: The Unity of Book 2
    (pp. 38-62)

    Book 2 ofParadise Lostis the book of Ulysses, the mythical hero whom it finally evokes by name near its end (2.1019), after Satan’s voyage through Chaos has enacted a miniatureOdyssey. Milton doubly organizes the book’s fiction and ideas, first, around the figure of Ulysses himself, second, around one of the hazards Ulysses faces in theOdyssey, the paired monsters Scylla and Charybdis. The episodes of book 2 imitate a series of scenarios from the story of Ulysses, drawn not merely from theOdysseybut from different classical sources, and produce a number of Ulysses figures: the orator...

  7. 3 Fear of Falling: Icarus, Phaethon, and Lucretius
    (pp. 63-92)

    In his epic about the Fall, Milton includes versions of two famous characters of classical myth who fell from the heavens: Icarus, who fell when he ignored his father’s warnings and flew too high on his wings of wax and feathers; and Phaethon, who fell, struck by Jupiter’s thunderbolt, from the solar chariot of his father Apollo, the chariot he had unsuccessfully tried to drive through the sky, in spite of Apollo’s plea that he forbear. Ovid tells the stories of the two highfliers as parallel myths in theMetamorphosesand twice couples Icarus and Phaethon as figures of his...

  8. 4 Light, Vision, and the Unity of Book 3
    (pp. 93-121)

    Milton begins book 2 ofParadise Lostwith the adjectiveHigh, describing Satan’s bad eminence on the royal throne of hell; he ends the book with the verbhies(2.1055), as Satan hastens toward God’s new creation in his eagerness to take revenge. Something similar happens in book 3, where the invocation to Light (“Hail, holyLight”) in the first verse is again matched in the book’s last word, a verb describing Satan: “on Niphates’s top helights” (3.742). Both cases emphasize, through their very grammar, the devil’s fall from his former height and brightness—this was Lucifer once upon...

  9. 5 The Politics of Envy
    (pp. 122-152)

    The third verse ofParadise Lostechoes the Wisdom of Solomon in the biblical Apocrypha: “For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Neverthelessthrough the envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it” (2:23–24). So the Fall that Satan engineered “Brought death into the world, and all our woe” (PL1.3). The first thing we learn in the poem after its invocation is that “envy and revenge” (1.35) stirred Satan into action.¹ Envy, as much if...

  10. 6 Getting What You Wish For: A Reading of the Fall
    (pp. 153-196)

    It takes two, Adam and Eve, to fall in book 9 ofParadise Lost, just as it takes both of them to reconcile with each other and accept the gift of God’s grace in book 10. Eve falls deceived by the wiles of Satan, failing the test she sets for herself to confront and withstand temptation as a lone individual. Adam knowingly falls with Eve, an act that combines marital love, human solidarity, and Adam’s fear of repeating his earlier loneliness before Eve’s creation: “To live again in these wild woods forlorn” (9.910). Adam’s choice—the choice of death—aligns...

  11. 7 Reversing the Fall in Book 10
    (pp. 197-233)

    Has Milton nodded? Though little noticed, there is a logical problem in the order of events in book 10. We are told (10.332–45) that Satan witnessed the Fall but fled terrified from the Son who came to judge Adam and Eve, then returned to eavesdrop on the couple and learned of God’s decree upon him, “which understood / Not instant but of future doom” (10.344–45); this conversation is the one between Adam and Eve that begins at 10.867 and concludes the book. Satan now meets with Sin and Death on the outside of the universe and discovers the...

  12. 8 Leaving Eden
    (pp. 234-248)

    The first 1667 version ofParadise Lostarranges its ten books in a concentric and symmetrical scheme, outlined in the following table.

    Milton’s 1674 revision of the poem into the twelve-book version we now read changes the center of the poem so that books 6 and 7 depict the double heroism of the Son as victor over Satan and as cosmic creator, the actions he will repeat at the end of time in apocalyptic battle and as maker of a new heaven and earth. In doing so, it obscures the earlier pattern, whose center, we observed in chapter 1, pivoted...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 249-284)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-300)
  15. Index
    (pp. 301-330)