- Purchase/rental options available:
This article argues that Milton's Paradise Lost (1667) and Lucy Hutchinson's Order and Disorder (1660–4, publ. 1679) share an interest in the "common ground" out of which human beings are made, an indifference to any ontologically meaningful status for human sexual difference, and creative investments in the transubstantial, rather than fixed or bounded, capacities of human bodies. While critics have addressed the relationship between the mobile and intra-active materialism of Milton's created universe and his radical sense of angelic and human gender and sexuality ("for among unequals what society/Can sort"), comparatively little attention has been paid to Hutchinson's similarly vitalist and anti-dualist vision of creation, let alone her equal indifference, if not outright resistance, to any claim for the primacy or relevance of sexual difference as a defining or ontologically meaningful aspect of the human story. Yet Order and Disorder continually draws attention to the ways in which human bodies are part of a transubstantial and transhistorical materiality, and to the ways in which sexual difference is written as a form of tyrannical control. A trans* reading of these two poems invites us to consider them not as his and hers versions of the creation story, nor as etiological stories of sexual difference and hierarchy, but rather as similar projects of Christian materialist philosophy, each of which envisions the softened boundaries of embodied selves.