Date of Award

4-17-2009

Document Type

Thesis

First Advisor

L. Monique Pittman

Abstract

John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) follows the story of creation, the transformation of Lucifer to Satan, and the eventual fall of humanity. Traditional readings of this poem that focus on Milton’s portrayals of Adam and Eve purport that the text presents an unflinchlingly misogynistic view of women. In Paradise Lost there is a definite gender hierarchy at work. This hierarchy is constructed by certain binaries that separate the world of the male from that of the female. Examples of these binaries are rampant throughout the text; men use reason, women do not. Men are strong and women are weak. Men have a closer connection to God – general face-to-face – while women access God through an intermediary.

However, throughout the poem, Milton presents conflicting evidence that Eve’s character and the place of women. The text offers ambiguity, refusing to completely demonize or vindicate the women. This ambiguity is evident first through Eve’s use of reason, which contradicts the assumption that she is subordinate; second, the text subtly offers non-traditional readings of the Fall which share the blame for sin with men, rather than placing all responsibility on the woman; and third, the narrative ends with man and wife comforting one another as equals in the fallen world.

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