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The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

By Angelica Duran

Publication Year: 2007

In The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution, Angelica Duran reveals the way in which Milton’s works interacted with the revolutionary work of his contemporaries in science to participate in the dynamic “advancement of learning” of the time period. Bringing together primary materials by early modern scientists, including Robert Boyle, William Gilbert, William Harvey, Isaac Newton, John Ray, and John Wilkins as well as educational reformers such as Samuel Hartlib and Henry Oldenburg, The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution positions Milton’s literature as a coequal partner with the new cosmological theories, mathematical developments, telescopes, and scientific tracts that so thoroughly affected every aspect of recorded life in seventeenth century England. Duran shows, for example, how new developments in ornithology worked to shape the Lady’s power in the young Milton’s celebratory A Mask, how mathematics informed the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve in his mature epic Paradise Lost, and how developments in optics transformed the blinded hero of the blind author’s moving tragedy Samson Agonistes. While this study is indebted to the work of historians of science—from C. P. Snow and Thomas Kuhn to Stephen Shapin and Stephen Jay Gould—it is not a history of science per se, but rather a cultural study that appreciates poetry as a unique lens through which early modern England’s large-scale developments in education and science are clarified and reflected. What emerges is an intimate sense of how the enormous changes of the English Scientific Revolution affected individual lives and found their ways into Milton’s enduring poetry and prose.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. ix-x

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xi-xii

The epigraph above has provided me with some of the much-needed vision that has driven a project that valorizes the existence and coexistence of aesthetic and scientific pleasure. I am grateful to the many colleagues and mentors who provided me with the even greater needs demanded by such a project...

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Introduction: Knowledge Regained

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pp. 1-27

Two terms that have been used regularly to refer to seventeenth century English culture are “The Age of Milton” and the “The Scientific Revolution.” The first is often deployed to refer primarily to artistic literary practices and discourses; the second to “the disciplines of science.”1 We...

PART I. Teachers: The Sinews of Ulysses

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ONE. Milton among Early Modern Scientists

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pp. 31-48

John Milton famously denounces individual teachers as well as the horde of dreadful pedagogues who are the bane of his education, of his beloved nation, and of humankind in general. He pillories the men “who pollute all learning, divine and human, by their frivolous subtleties and barren disputations” as “grievous Wolves,” “unbending tutors,” “babblers,” “false Doctors,” “hirelings,” “driveling monks,” and more.1...

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TWO. The Death of the Natural Philosopher and Pastoral Teacher

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pp. 49-69

Il Penseroso and A Mask are unique among Milton’s works because they represent comfortable images of traditional natural philosophers and pastoral teachers. We attend to these two early works first because they best elucidate the characteristics of the old ideals rather than the growing pressures on those ideals. Later in the chapter, we look...

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THREE. Milton’s Angelic Vanguard, Uriel and Gabriel

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pp. 71-91

During the nearly quarter of a century between Of Education and Paradise Lost, the innovative pedagogical practices and discursive representations of English scholars had become better established, and the tentative shift in natural philosophy had developed into the English Scientific Revolution. With Paradise Lost, the archetypal figures of pastoral teacher and...

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FOUR. Pre- and Postlapsarian Teachers, Raphael and Michael

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pp. 93-110

Uriel and Gabriel characterize teaching as a continual and militant activity, offer a sense of the human world as a teaching site at large, and comfortably integrate new scientific discourse and activity into their own. The “Divine instructer,” Raphael, and the “Heav’nly instructer,” Michael, nuance the pedagogical project only outlined with Uriel and Gabriel...

PART II. Academic Subjects: “The reforming of Education”

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FIVE. The Standard Academic Subjects and Their Function

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pp. 113-129

Unlike the almost complete representational refashioning of the teacher-scientist, dilation rather than deletion governed the changes in curricular subjects in England for most of the seventeenth century. Curricular dilation was responsive to the ongoing recovery of ancient and classical texts, explorations of the known world, and new observations of the cosmos and its microscopic elements through new observations and technologies. Such...

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SIX. Subjects of Change in L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and A Mask

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pp. 131-207

My previous chapters have clarified how Milton’s works reflected and helped shape the emerging concept of “scientists” and how they promoted progressive curricular reform. It still might be difficult to appreciate how Milton’s poetry could contribute to the study and development of mathematics. Mathematics....

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SEVEN. Subjects for Change in Of Education

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pp. 153-178

Milton’s most effective curricular arguments reside in his poetry, but his most precise description resides in his educational prose tract Of Education. Milton penned Of Education roughly 12 years after leaving Cambridge and while he was in his short tenure as private teacher (1640–1646) in what his pupil and nephew Edward Phillips lovingly called a “House of Muses.” While Milton’s educational recommendations in Of Education are reflective...

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EIGHT. The Sexual Mathematics of Paradise Lost

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pp. 179-207

My previous chapters have clarified how Milton’s works reflected and helped shape the emerging concept of “scientists” and how they promoted progressive curricular reform. It still might be difficult to appreciate how Milton’s poetry could contribute to the study and development of mathematics. Mathematics is, after all, so theoretical compared to the natural...

PART III. Students: “Poor striplings”

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NINE. Brave, New Students

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pp. 211-224

The civil and scientific revolutions of seventeenth century England propelled many upheavals in educational theory and practice and fundamentally redefined the aims of educational institutions. The very raison d’etre of educational institutions, students, faced many new perplexing situations both outside of and within them. Outside of the “studious...

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TEN. From Philomela to luscinia magarhynchos in A Mask

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pp. 225-249

Seventeenth century English intellectuals emphasized students’ ultimate responsibility in benefiting from education. “Students” were generally understood to be a middle- to upper-class males in organized educational systems ranging from homeschooling to grammar schools to formalized colleges and universities. By and large,...

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ELEVEN. The Son’s Last Stages of Education

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pp. 251-269

While A Mask was written during the early stages of the English Scientific Revolution and before Milton had formalized his educational ideals in Of Education, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes were written at the height of the English Scientific Revolution and well after Milton had worked out his educational practices and ideals. In these...

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TWELVE. Samson and Natural Religion

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pp. 271-296

Samson Agonistes is the brother piece to Paradise Regained not only in its twinned publication under the same cover in 1671 but also in the model of educational graduation that it affirms. The great diversity of characteristics between the brief epic’s protagonist and the tragedy’s agonist highlights that, while there was a new pattern for students...

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APPENDIX A

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pp. 297-302

English translation of the prefatory epistle of the first Latin rendering of Paradise Lost, Paraphrasis poetica in tria Johannis Miltoni, viri clarissimi, poemata, viz Paradisum Amissum, Paradisum Recuperatum, et Samsonem Agonisten (London: John Darby, 1690)....

NOTES

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pp. 303-340

INDEX

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pp. 341-349


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705316
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703862
Print-ISBN-10: 0820703869

Page Count: 361
Illustrations: 2 photographs, 15 facsimile pages, 1 painting
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies
Series Editor Byline: Albert C. Labriola

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Subject Headings

  • Literature and science -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Knowledge -- Science.
  • Milton, John, -- 1608-1674 -- Influence.
  • England -- Intellectual life -- 17th century.
  • Learning and scholarship -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Contemporaries.
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