Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Katherine Eggert

Second Advisor

David Glimp

Third Advisor

Katherine C. Little


The moral implication of wisdom, knowledge, and humankind’s fate after the fall of man is one of the major occupations of the poet John Milton in his epic poem Paradise Lost. Influential arguments from scholars such as Stanley Fish propose that there is a temporal and moral binary exemplified in the action of the poem, divided between a pre and post-lapsarian position. I will here complicate this binary, suggesting that Adam and Eve’s development throughout the epic shows a more progressive evolution than has been considered previously. Because of this developmental progress, I also suggest that Milton presents a complex moral vision of knowledge or wisdom. Instead of condemning curiosity and knowledge, Milton argues for a cautious and contemplative approach to each, while also affirming that wisdom is a necessity to living a Christian life.