Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the relative status and authority of the poetic voices of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained within a literary and socio-political context. The case against the monological function of the primary narrator has most recently been made by critics including Donald Bouchard and Jonathan Goldberg who discuss the dialogical nature of this speaker, and by Kathleen Swaim and Barbara Lewalski who examine the exchanges among the different narrators. Another scholar, Gordon Teskey, observes that before PL "few characters in non-dramatic literature appear as free as Milton's to choose their own story" (11). Milton's interpretive model of historical intervention through voice anticipates the critical reading of revolutionary action in the New Historicist-informed "unending conversation of history." The poet-revolutionary inscribes and critiques the classical epic in PL and PR by intercepting the linear narratives with the narrators' prospective and retrospective accounts. Using a self-conscious literary and cultural criticism to describe the relationship between discursive practices inside and outside the poems, I offer a highly critical forum for exchange that addresses the manner, methods, and motivations behind their representation of voice.;This study is structured according to a political and literary reading of the account of Nimrod in PL, which I explicate in chapter 1, along with several Renaissance adaptations of this story. In the subsequent chapter I examine the literary definitions of voice and the pluralization of meaning as a contribution to social formation in the seventeenth century. I address the orchestration of the individual narrative voices in the poem's dynamic hierarchy of discourse in chapter 3. Chapter 4 discusses the relationship between language, politics and history in the debates between the Son and Satan in PR--conventionally labelled apolitical.;The multivocal reading reveals how the poems may have been circulated in order to speak to their own time and recuperated to speak to ours. Milton instructs us about dialogism, as well as about the dialectical relationship between the desire for multivocality and the ever unfulfilled need for consensus. Most importantly, he teaches us how to create a language of alternatives, and to intervene through voice in a culturally or politically censored environment.



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