“The More to Draw His Love”: Paradise Lost and the Critique of Misogyny

  • Peter C. Herman


Earlier critics of Milton’s gender politics generally split into two groups.1 The first denounces the poem as a monument to oppressive patriarchy (as Sandra Gilbert, Mary Nyquist, and Christine Froula have done2), while the second argues that Milton defends Eve, notwithstanding her subordinate position (Barbara Lewalski, Joan Webber, and Diane McColley best represent this position3). As McColley puts it, “we need to observe that in Paradise Lost subordination is not inferiority, and that Milton’s Eve is equal to Adam in sanctitude while remaining, as the Vulgate has it, adjutorium—one who by helping gives delight—in allegiance.”4 The impulse, as always in Milton criticism, is to resolve the matter one way or another, to define Milton as either an unreconstructed misogynist (Nyquist calls Milton “English literature’s paradigmatic patriarch”5) or a prophet of gender equality.6 More recently, such critics as Karen Edwards, Lee Morrissey, and Elisabeth Liebert7 have expressed dismay with the “pendulum swing of blaming or excusing,”8 as Edwards puts it, and have tried to argue for a third way, but in trying to find a way to resolve or go beyond the poem’s antimonies, they too seek to find certainty in Milton’s treatment of gender.9


Subordinate Position Paradise Lost Creation Story Conjugal Love Intellectual Superiority 
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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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