You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or sign in to view the full course.

Milton: Paradise Lost: Religious and Literary Background

20. Conclusion

This is the course trailer. Please create an account or sign in to view this lecture.

  • About this Lecture
  • Cite

About this Lecture


In this module, we summarise the ideas of the previous three modules; first, we noted that Paradise Lost's presentation of the Fall was radically distinctive in its insistence that Eve was "sufficient to have stood, but free to fall"; second, we situated the question of free-will in the more general context of Calvinism and Arminianism, which was an important religious debate in 17th-Century England; while Paradise Lost does engage with contemporary religious debates, however, it is important to recognise Milton's purpose in writing it; it is important to remember that Paradise Lost is not a religious treatise, but a poem, designed to "justify the ways of God to men", and that this task may justify a fair amount of artistic license with Christian doctrine.


In this course, Dr Edmund White (University of Oxford) explores the religious and literary background of Paradise Lost. This course provides an introduction to the religious culture of seventeenth-century England, and shows how this culture influenced the composition of Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. This course falls into two halves. In the first half: we explore the principal Christian ideas that feature in Milton’s narration of the fall of Adam and Eve; in the second half, we look at the political implications of the religious ideas articulated in Paradise Lost. In both halves, we take examples from key moments of the poem, as well as from other writings by Milton and his seventeenth-century contemporaries.


Dr Edmund White completed his D. Phil. in English Literature at the University of Oxford in January 2014. Supervised by Sharon Achinstein, the title of his thesis was “The Concept of Discipline: Poetry, Rhetoric, and the Church in the Works of John Milton”. The main interest of his research thus far has been in the intersection between mainstream ecclesiastical politics and literature in Milton's works. Discipline, his thesis argues, is a complex concept in Milton's writing, that develops over time: whereas it denotes coercive and persuasive ecclesiastical power in his early prose, his later poetry treats the concept in terms of personal, moral piety.

His future research will seek to compare Milton’s understanding of piety in his later works with the pieties advocated by other contemporaries of different confessional persuasions: Bunyan, Baxter, Traherne, Vaughan.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

White, E. (2018, August 15). Milton: Paradise Lost: Religious and Literary Background - Conclusion [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

White, Edmund. "Milton: Paradise Lost: Religious and Literary Background – Conclusion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,