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Title: Milton and material culture
Author: Rosario, Deborah Hope
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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In contradistinction to critical trends which have rendered Milton’s thought disembodied, this thesis studies how seventeenth-century material culture informed Milton’s poetry and prose at the epistemic level and by suggesting a palette of forms for literary play. The first chapter explores the early modern culture of fruit. At the epistemic level, practices of fruit cultivation and consumption inform Milton’s imagination and his vocabulary, thereby connecting their historic-material lives with their symbolic ones. Milton further turns commonplace gestures of fruit consumption into narrative devices that frame discussions of agency, aspiration, sinful and right practice. The second chapter examines two floral catalogues to discover how they find shape through the epistemologies of flowers, ceremony, and decorative arts. Here material culture shapes literary convention, as one catalogue is found to secret ceremonial consolation in its natural ingenuousness, while the other’s delight in human physicality upsets the distinctions between inner virtue and outer ornament, faith and rite. In the third chapter, urban epistemologies of light, darkness, movement, and space are examined through urban phenomena: skyline, suburbs, highways, theft, and waterways. By interpellating contemporary debates, these categories anatomise fallen character, intent, action, and their consequences. Milton’s instinctive distaste for urban nuisances is interesting in this Republican figure and is subversive of some ideologies of the text. Discursive and material aspects meet again in the fourth chapter in a discussion of his graphic presentations of geography on the page. Usually prone to analyses of textual knowledge, they are also informed by the embodiment of knowledge as material object. Milton’s search for a fitting cartographic aesthetic for the Biblical narrative and for the rhetoric of his characters leads him to an increasing consciousness of the ideologies energising these material forms. The fifth chapter explores Milton’s engagement with forms of armour and weapons. Military preferences for speed and mobility over armour help Milton explore the difference between unfallen and fallen being. Milton also uses his inescapably proleptic knowledge of arms and armour as a field of imaginative play for representations that are both anachronistic and typological. These lead to a discussion of imitation in the mythic imagination. In each of these studies, we witness Milton’s consciousness of his temporal and proleptic location, and his attempts to marry the temporal and the pan- or atemporal. In the conclusion I suggest that Milton’s simultaneous courting of the atemporal while he is drawn to or draws on temporal material culture imply an incarnational aesthetic.
Supervisor: Purkiss, Diane Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Early modern English literature (1550 ? 1780) ; History of Britain and Europe ; Early Modern Britain and Europe ; Milton ; material culture ; early modern literature ; early modern England ; biblical narratives