Milton's Paradise Lost: Moral Education by M. Thickstun

By M. Thickstun

This booklet reads Milton’s Paradise misplaced as a poem that seeks to teach its readers by means of narrating the schooling of its major characters. lots of Milton’s characters input the motion in overdue early life, newly self sufficient and wanting to try themselves, to find who they're and their position on the planet. The poem charts their growth into ethical maturity. Taking as its premise that spotlight to the ethical improvement of the poem’s major characters will open the poem to such a lot undergraduate readers, this e-book explores either the pedagogical task inside of Paradise misplaced and the pedagogical job that the poem encourages.

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Milton has constructed his narrative to demonstrate that the God’s plan for human elevation—the Son’s Incarnation among humans—does not require that humans sin, just as his Incarnation among angels preceded angelic sin. It is this declaration, the Primal Decree, to which Satan refuses assent. The role of Incarnation is to unite all creatures, and only incidentally to redeem them from the catastrophe of disobedience. To make such an argument requires understanding the “relationship” between heavenly and earthly experience in Paradise Lost.

According to Lieb, Milton’s exegetical practice constituted a version of what I have been calling “authorial reading,” searching Scripture that he believed to have been “written” by God as he believed God intended his audience to read it: “reading the Scriptures becomes for Milton an exercise in the discovery of God’s intentions, of forming a mental image of him corresponding to that which he, in bringing himself within the limits of our understanding, desires us to form” (“Reading God” 224). Milton reads Scripture as God’s self-revelation; what Scripture provides is not systematic theology, not a theological discourse on “the nature of God,” but a series of stories about God’s intervention in human history, about God’s interaction with human beings.

The process of hardening one’s heart involves the exercise of individual will as much as the process of renovation does, and the portrait of Satan that Milton paints in Paradise Lost offers a remarkable psychological study of that process. As William Perry documented in his interviews with students at Harvard during the mid-twentieth century, the educational process repeatedly challenges adolescents’ understanding of the world and their sense of themselves, their identity. As I have explained in the introduction, out of those interviews Perry identified “stages” in normal intellectual development, as a young person moves from dualism to multiplicity to informed commitment.

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