<i>Paradise Lost</i> and Heresy

Nigel Smith

in The Oxford Handbook of Milton

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697885
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Paradise Lost and Heresy

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
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Heresy becomes a fundamental part of a Christian's life of faith. While Paradise Lost articulates heresy in the Augustinian sense of theological doctrine, the drama of the dilemmas facing each of the characters is also a demonstration of the operation of true heresy. John Milton presents the Fall of Man in Paradise Lost as strung between two moments of sexual utopianism. At the heart of Paradise Lost is Milton's free-will theology, the belief that man can choose between good and evil; Satan rebelled of his own free will, Adam chose fatally the wrong way, and although postlapsarian man is much reduced on that account, the obligation through the faith to choose good from evil is made. The very innovative form of Paradise Lost, a kind of literary heresy (in Miltonic terms) itself, becomes a site for these heterodox views and necessarily their embodiment.

Keywords: Paradise Lost; heresy; John Milton; theology; Satan; Adam; sexual utopianism

Article.  7381 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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