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Title: Fallen Father: John Milton, Antinomianism, and the Case Against Adam
Authors: Mctar, Ali
Advisors: SmithDolven, NigelJeff
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Antinomianism
John Milton
Social history
Subjects: English literature
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: John Milton’s relationship to English Antinomianism is more potent than ever previously argued and the result is an under considered Antinomian poetics. There are two critical methods I revive to make my case: Christopher Hill’s historical approach and Stanley Fish’s method in Surprised by Sin (1967). Across my first three chapters, I identify the overlooked points of contact between Milton and England’s ‘Antinomian underground.’ By reconstructing Milton within Carolinian Antinomianism, I situate recent claims for Milton’s ‘peculiar grace,’ and his ‘Platonic perfectionism,’ in the proper context of English Antinomianism. In the end, I argue Milton studies has lacked the thrust of a particular intellectual tradition: Antinomianism. The second half is dedicated to revising, while updating, Fish’s Surprised by Sin. I argue that Fish’s reader-response method is nearly identical to Milton’s solution to the problem of Christ’s prohibition against divorce, which I elucidate in my second chapter, and call an ‘Antinomian reading method.’ In one chapter on Paradise Lost, I argue Milton scholars’ preoccupation with Satan has obscured Adam’s evil. Milton tells another story, slightly beneath the surface, but only just, that offers an anti-monarchical, anti-hierarchical, and anti-authoritarian story, all routed through Adam. I connect Adam to early modern theories of kingship and monarchy, natural law, and I elucidate how Paradise Lost engages with significant themes, doctrines, and trends in 17th-century radical religion, particularly John Eaton’s Antinomianism and the Muggletonians, all to condemn Adam. In my final chapters, I argue that at the heart of Paradise Lost is the question of friendship, its possibility in Eden, and in the end, how Adam rejects it, and in so doing, denies Eve’s wiser reasoning. He secures our fall, making him and not Satan, the poem’s real villain. I argue against scholars who celebrate Adam’s recovery of marital love. I assert that Paradise Lost does not celebrate marriage and progeny, but rather condemns it, revealing that Eve’s proposals for friendship without sex, or suicide, were the better alternatives to marriage, children, and the fall. In the end, I propose that Eve is the poem’s ‘Higher Argument,’ that ‘better Fortitude’ of ‘Patience and Heroic Martyrdom.’
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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