Towards a miltonic mariology: The word and the body of Mary in Paradise Regain'd (1671)

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Abstract

© 2012 SEDERI. All rights reserved. It is a recurring critical topos that John Milton's Paradise Regain'd (1671) is a revisionist poem, one that works towards reframing and redefining the epic tradition; what has certainly been less noticed is the central function played by the character of Mary, the mother of Christ, in this revisionist process. This article will try to prove that Mary's appearances in the poem are, though limited, essential to its content and to its perspective on the interrelated subjects of the revelation of God in history and the individual confrontation with historical forces; and it will try to do so by bringing together theological discussion and a genderoriented approach. There have certainly been approaches to Paradise Regain'd that have explored some of the gender issues brought about by the poem's modification of the heroic function: Almost unanimously, these approaches have concentrated on the character of the Son. My intention here, however, is another: I will try to show how the function and voice of Mary in the poem set in motion a complex, rich network of implications (both ethical and theological) which are at the core of the poem's discourse and ideology. This focus on the maternal in Paradise Regain'd will not be carried out from a psychoanalytical perspective (though it is by no means incompatible with such an approach), but rather through reading the text via literary and theological categories that are recurrent throughout Milton's work. It should thus be possible to start working seriously towards establishing the presence of a serious and original Mariology (clearly not a Mariolatry) in Milton's last epic poem. Overall, this will lead us to a reconsideration of Paradise Regain'd as an essentially innovative text, and one which is strongly heterodox in terms of its theology and gender discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-50
JournalSEDERI
Volume22
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

Keywords

  • Epic
  • Gender
  • Motherhood
  • Selfhood

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