McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
epic, grace, St. Augustine, reader response, free will, Scripture
Milton has a literary place within the Christian understanding of grace, entangles his reader into Paradise Lost, and embeds a "higher Argument" of an economics of salvation of grace within the text which thus forms a transcendent reader who responds by a choice for the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of mammon. Paradise Lost as a tertiary stage in epic development maintains a grand style, but modern critics have problems with Milton's God. Autobiographical elements in The Reason of Church-Government indicate Milton's sense of a divine calling in poetry, but Professors Grierson and Tillyard disagree regarding Milton's prophetic powers in Paradise Lost, while William Kerrigan, Joseph Wittreich, John S. Hill, and Michael Lieb recognize a sacred calling and elements of the sacred in Milton's epic.
Subsequently, I trace the shifting nuances of grace and follow its development through six historical periods that cover (1) the Old Testament, (2) the New Testament, (3) post-Apostolic Period, (4) Patristic, (5) Scholastic eras, and (6) the Arminian heresy and the De Auxiliis controversy in the seventeenth century. John Milton, influenced by St. Augustine, contributes to the grace conversation through Paradise Lost.
Five topics concern the transcendent reader: (1) the philosophical shift that occurs in modern philosophy, theology, and later in literary criticism with "the turn toward the subject" anticipated by Milton; (2) reader response theory that develops as a result of the philosophical interest in the subject; (3) PL as an epic experienced as drama enacted within a reader's mind; (4) the possibility that PL becomes a reflection for a reader to consider grace, responsibility, and salvation; (5) the "higher argument" of PL that includes the economics of grace and salvation. To situate Milton as a theologian, I mark the importance of Christian Doctrine and its relationship to PL, review the qualities of the Puritan sermon that Milton incorporates into PL, and note Milton's debt to Puritan homilists. Finally, I look into biblical economics and how Milton integrates the economics of grace into his "higher Argument."
Callahan, P. (2009). The Reader of Milton's "Higher Argument" in Paradise Lost (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/377