During the seventeenth century, the Protestant English epic found its most daring and original expression in Milton's two major epics, Paradise Lost (1667, 1674) and Paradise Regained (1671). In this chapter I examine the generic, political, and religious distinctiveness of the Protestant English epic, especially as it culminated in Milton's epic poems published during the Restoration. This was a period of enormous political and religious hostility and uncertainty for Dissenters like Milton, 'fall'n on evil days' and anxious that his might be 'an age too late' to raise the 'name' of epic to new heights (PL 7.25, 9.44-5). In discussing Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained and the striking ways in which Milton as visionary poet revises and subverts the epic tradition, I will concentrate on what makes them especially distinctive radical Protestant epics. Although Milton's spiritual epics, with their expansive and highly nuanced handling of biblical materials, remain at the centre of this discussion, Lucy Hutchinson's Order and Disorder, another notable biblical epic by a Dissenter committed to republican causes and initially published anonymously in 1679, deserves special attention as well: the first English Protestant epic by a female author, it is only now beginning to receive critical assessment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Arts and Humanities