Incertitude, Authority, and Milton’s God

  • Peter C. Herman


Since its initial publication, many readers of Paradise Lost have sensed that something there is weirdly askew about Milton’s portrayal of God. John Peter succinctly describes the problem: orthodox Christianity conceives of God “as the embodiment of perfect strength and majesty…. Certain passages maintain this disposition. What is more significant is that some do not. The result … is to shade or faintly qualify the notions of heavenly perfection we have been entertaining.”1 Consequently, a conflict arises between the orthodox assumption of God’s goodness, His perfection, and the evidence in the poem that seems to undermine those assumptions. Expecting to find a just, merciful God, many readers find themselves confronting a God who is querulous at best, tyrannical at worst. The gap between what the reader expects and what the poem gives us constitutes a Kuhnian anomaly, that is, a result that does not accord with the one expected by the dominant paradigm, and the Miltonic interpretive community has reacted exactly as Kuhn (had he considered the issue) likely would have predicted.


Paradise Lost Interpretive Community Artistic Failure Divine Omniscience Fall Angel 
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Copyright information

© Peter C. Herman 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter C. Herman
    • 1
  1. 1.San Diego State UniversityUSA

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