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Milton: Paradise Lost: Religious and Literary Background

24. Course Conclusion

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About this Lecture


In this final module, we summarise some of the ideas of the whole course. Paradise Lost is a poem which attempts to "justify the ways of God to man". As we’ve seen, it does not conduct its argument in the form of an evangelical rant or a solemn tract: it makes its points through awe-inspiring, all-encompassing narrative delivered in astonishingly powerful English blank verse. It accommodates a variety of perspectives and ideas within its argument, whether through an at-times sympathetic Satan or a reasoning, intelligent Eve, or any number of other complex characters. It is at times controversial, at times exciting, and at other times downright chilling.


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 - Course Conclusion [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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