"Disproportions With Superfluous Hand": Gender and Scientific Inquiry in Paradise Lost



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My thesis explores the interconnected topics of gender dynamics and scientific inquiry in Milton’s Paradise Lost, showing that Milton’s text remains culturally relevant outside of the literary tradition. Curiosity about nature is an important characteristic of prelapsarian Eden, offering opportunity for discovery and for error, and inquiry into the natural world is continually connected to social and ethical disruption in the text. Adam’s uncertainty about his position of authority over Eve parallels his observations of disproportions in the heavens, and Satan’s temptation of Eve uses the language of the new science to confirm the connection between natural philosophy and social disruption, revealing the potential impact of natural philosophy on social structures. Rather than offering easy answers or total harmony in his prelapsarian world, Milton’s epic challenges readers to think carefully about the social dynamics of knowledge attainment and the ethical implications for our ideas of nonhuman and human matter.



Research Subject Categories, Paradise Lost, John Milton, Restoration literature, gender, history of science