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Title: Milton and superfluity
Author: Cohen, Andrew Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0000 5272 1310
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis proceeds from the observation that Milton is concerned by the presence of surplus material in the physical world. The blind Pharisee in Samson Agonistes dismisses his 'redundant locks, / Robustious to no purpose clustering down.' In the Ludlow masque, Comus complains that the Lady's 'moral babble' would leave nature 'strangled with her waste fertility.' Creation, in Paradise Lost, requires the expulsion of 'black tartareous cold infernal dregs' and leaves behind an abyss full of matter. Adam and Eve live in a garden where the sun shines with more warmth than they need, where the nighttime sky is bright with a perplexing canopy of lights. Vines and overgrown branches threaten to make their walks unpassable, while fruit, uncollected and uneaten, falls to the ground. An interest in superfluity is a characteristic feature of Milton's imagination. He insists on limits, then turns to what is left out as excess or waste. This habit of mind influences Milton's description of acts of choosing and gives shape to his account of the relationship between creation and God. It complicates his answer to the sort of question Augustine asks of God in the Confessions: 'Do heaven and earth contain you because you have filled them? Or do you fill them and overflow them because they do not contain you?' Milton is troubled by the idea of purposeless divine work. He is bothered by the thought of a creation that is useless or unnecessary. In Paradise Lost, I argue, the reason for the existence for the world is tied to the reason for sin.
Supervisor: Nuttall, Anthony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Criticism and interpretation