Old Fathers and New Mothers: Supersession and the “unity of spirit” in <i>Paradise Lost</i>

Trubowitz Rachel

in Nation and Nurture in Seventeenth-Century English Literature

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199604739
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741074 | DOI:
Old Fathers and New Mothers: Supersession and the “unity of spirit” in Paradise Lost

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This chapter traces how Paradise Lost takes the shift from the dynastic to the post-dynastic nation and maps it onto the supersessional, Pauline–Augustinian opposition between the carnal Israel of the past and the spiritual Israel of the future. Milton associates the former with the old, natural father and the first Adam and the latter with the new, spiritually nurturing mother and the second Eve. Milton also conflates the reformed nation's spiritual triumph over the corporealism of dynastic kingship with the triumph of Christian allegory over Hebraic literalism. Simultaneously, however, Milton keeps the body, the literal, and the Hebraic very much in play. The poet's monist view of the new nation as both embodied and disembodied depends upon the same Hebraic relation between spiritual election and corporeal vitality that is repressed in the epic's last two books.

Keywords: spiritual mothers; biological fathers; dualism; monism; Christian allegory; Hebraic literalism; corporealism; disembodiment; post-dynastic nation

Chapter.  19022 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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