Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis has a two-fold purpose: to explore the criterion used by the reader to hierarchically arrange the epic's characters and to examine the discrepancy between the reader's preconceived and actual interpretations of the hierarchy within Paradise Lost. Since I believe that each reader experiencing the epic expects its characters to maintain certain attributes, the crux of my thesis will be to determine if the reader can reconcile his or her expectations about the nature of hierarchy with the actual hierarchy as presented in Milton's text. To better understand Paradise Lost in a way that has not hitherto been studied, I have developed a new perspective- the cognitive paradigm- which centers around the way in which readers structure their experiences. This approach encourages readers to re-structure their current interpretations of the epic's events when new information or schema is presented to them. Although Fish describes the poem's methods as a "programme of reader harassment" (1967: 4), I maintain that Paradise Lost invites its readers to embrace the opportunity to re-visit our old assumptions in order to fully experience the text.
Chapter One sets forth the dual task of outlining my area of interest and positing an alternative framework for which to analyze the text. Chapter Two focuses on exploring the different attributes of Adam and Eve to determine if the traditional hierarchical reading is supported, whereby Adam possesses superior qualities to his female counterpart. Chapter Three examines the divine and demonic entities of God and Satan and prompts us to consider how Milton's portrayal of these characters affects our understanding of the hierarchy. Chapter Four concludes with a brief overview and offers its readers future points to consider.
Sa'ad, Sarah, "A 'Curious Mixture': The Reader and Hierarchy in John Milton's Paradise Lost" (2001). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7206.
McMaster University Library