"I fall erroneous, there to wander" Decoding Milton's mazes in "Paradise Lost"

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Description: Mazes abound in Milton's Paradise Lost . Surprisingly, few critics have elicited the kind of attention worthy of placing Milton's mazes at the high-water mark of critical interest. But even fewer words have been written concerning the nature of these mazes as they gesture toward the attitudes concerning the Fall of Man and seventeenth-century England's political turbulence. Even the predicament of the reader, whose disposition toward the moral nature of the poem's subject has a direct impact on how the poem should or could be read, is fundamentally unique. Not only does this thesis intend to uncover the different types of mazes found in Milton's Paradise Lost (as well as some of his minor poems) but it also means to determine his relatively conventional application of these mazes as they communicate with classically-established maze archetypes. The metaphorical leverage of the maze in the poem informs a greater understanding of the relationship between two separate but equally relatable entities: the poem and England's political climate, and the poem and the reader who engages it. Chapter One establishes where mazes occur in Paradise Lost, and also investigates Satan's role in the poem as both a maze wanderer and an author of serpentine rhetoric. In addition, Chapter One positions Paradise Lost as a conterminal text among some of Milton's earlier poems. Chapter Two builds upon the differentiated treatment of mazes in Paradise Lost by locating them within traditional garden-maze constructions prior to and during Milton's time. In this second chapter, I will offer various Renaissance garden-maze designs as interpretive vehicles into Milton's vision of the Garden of Eden. Chapter Three of the thesis will outline the different modal domains of Milton's maze designs as they relate to his knowledge of mazes in antiquity. Here the multicursal mazes of the classical world transfer into Paradise Lost as a critique of England's political uncertainty in the seventeenth century.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work