M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of English
Milton; John; 1608-1674 Criticism and interpretation; Lust in literature; English literature
This thesis examines the religious concept of concupiscence in the work of John Milton from Comus to Samson Agonistes with a special focus on Milton's political tracts and histories. I suggest in readings of Comus, Eikonoklastes, and The Ready and Easy Way that we find Milton interacting with concupiscence in a different way as his experiences in the British Commonwealth advanced. In the Comus we find Milton willing to forgive the concupiscent Lady, yet in Eikonoklastes and The Ready and Easy Way, Milton describes the "thralls" that dominate his later prose work in a keenly concupiscent manner such that the people of England are "ravished" by Charles at the end of Eikonoklastes. I term this politicization of concupiscence "national concupiscence," and turn to Milton's History of Britain to track how politicized concupiscence became a heuristic in Milton's literature for interacting with national failure. In The History, Milton gives startling precedence to the deeply misogynistic overtones of Dalila in Samson in his description of an Anglo-Saxon queen Cartimandua. In describing the failure of English nations past, Milton invokes the imagery of national concupiscence to suggest national failure was tied intimately to the queen's sexual deviance. Each iteration of the English nation is described in a similar manner in The History. I conclude with a reading of Samson Agonistes that seeks to highlight the nationally concupiscent overtones of the text, to suggest in turn that the text must not be read as allegory but instead as an imaginative reckoning of the problem of national concupiscence and national failure and spiritual resistance to it.
DePalma, Doug, "A bird for the ages : national concupiscence in the work of John Milton" (2016). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 49.
Northern Illinois University
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Advisors: Lara Crowley.||Committee members: Alexandra Bennett; Jeff Einboden.