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Gender and the Power of Relationship

"United as one individual Soul" in Paradise Lost

By Kristin A. Pruitt

Publication Year: 2003

In this provocative study, Kristin A. Pruitt offers a close reading of pivotal passages and critical concerns in Paradise Lost and examines Milton’s presentation of Adam and Eve’s relationship through the intersections of theology and gender in the poem. By delving into several seventeenth century commentaries on Genesis, Pruitt examines the various depictions of Eve and presents Milton’s Eve and her relationship with Adam. In recent years, scholars have addressed the disparate, often contradictory positions on gender and hierarchy in Paradise Lost. However, Pruitt adds to the discussion another layer: that the dialectic in the poem—the parallels and reversals in structure, imagery, action, and characterization—offer a reading from multiple perspectives and means of understanding one of the poem’s principal messages, which is the dual emphases on individuality versus selfhood and relationship versus union as they illuminate the ideal of unity in diversity.

Published by: Duquesne University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xiii

A few years ago, at a dinner gathering of several Renaissance conference participants, one of our number, a scholar who has written quite eloquently in support of Eve in the separation scene in Paradise Lost, lamented first woman’s diminished...

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pp. xv-xvi

Since the summer of 1988, when I attended the Arizona Milton Institute funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and under the direction of Peter E. Medine, many individuals have contributed in a variety of ways to this project. I...

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ONE: Pattern Divine: Milton’s Triune God

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pp. 1-18

“United as one individual Soul” (5.610) points to the dialectic / synthesis implicit in the divine pattern of relationships in Paradise Lost. As characters in the poem, the Father and the Son possess separate and unique individualities, with the...

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TWO: Education and the Master Teacher: Adam and Eve’s Creation Accounts

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pp. 19-44

Paradise Lost teems with educational encounters. From “That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed / In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth / Rose out of Chaos” (8–10) in book 1 to Michael instructing Adam through visions and narrative...

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THREE: Abundant Gifts: Hierarchy and Reciprocity

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pp. 45-59

Given the individual and gender distinctions highlighted in the characterization of Adam as “for contemplation hee and valor form’d” (4.297) and of Eve as “For softness shee and sweet attractive Grace” (298) and the differences in the nature, chronology...

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FOUR: Reason, Faith and “the soul / Of all the rest”: Separation, Reunion and “Fruit Divine”

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pp. 60-90

Adam and Eve’s willingness to participate in each other’s being while affirming a hierarchy of values suggests the vital connection between reason and faith, the ideals of human relationship and a relationship with God, in Paradise Lost. ...

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FIVE: “God is also in sleep”: Dreams Satanic and Divine

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pp. 91-107

After Michael instructs Adam about the future in books 11 and 12 of Paradise Lost, the archangel charges him to waken Eve and “at season fit / Let her with thee partake what thou has heard” (12.597–98). Adam, however, “found her wak’t”...

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SIX: The Many Faces of Eve

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pp. 108-159

Milton’s presentation of human relationships in Paradise reveals tensions and contradictions resulting in part from his scriptural source, in part from the presence of several characters (for example, Eve, Adam, Satan, Raphael, the Son, the...


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pp. 160-182

Works Cited

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pp. 183-191


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pp. 192-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705415
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703404
Print-ISBN-10: 0820703400

Page Count: 212
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 607059674
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gender and the Power of Relationship

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Spenser, Edmund, ǂd 1552?-1599. ǂt Faerie queene.
  • Adam -- (Biblical figure) -- In literature.
  • Interpersonal relations in literature.
  • Sex role in literature
  • Christian poetry, English -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
  • Eve -- (Biblical figure) -- In literature.
  • Man-woman relationships in literature.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674. Paradise lost.
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