Monday, September 9, 2013

Ahead of his time!

Ahead of your tiiiiiiiime!! (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat musical, anyone?)

In English 291, I wrote my final paper on Milton, focusing on his ideas concerning divorce. It was interesting to study him and the responses to his paper, most of them shocked, indignant, or outraged. Milton was discussing things that wouldn't begin to be widely accepted for years upon years. What I didn't notice was that Milton wasn't ahead simply in his ideas about divorce but in most of his ideas. What particularly hit me while looking through everything, reading his poetry, was his conflict with Thomas Hobbes. I remember taking a cursory glance at Hobbes in a Euro class in high school and for the life of me could never remember what
his main point was. Looking at it today, it made sense when the connection was made that his political ideas and theories were opposite that of Milton. Hobbes wanted an "all-powerful sovereign" to benefit society at large. Milton on the other hand took a more democratic thought-approach to how government/society should be run. I believe these ideas show up in Paradise Lost, the humanistic notion that man has inherent value, the capacity, right to make decisions that will benefit themselves as well as the rest of society.
This Christian humanism in place in Milton's mind is what I think shaped Milton as a person, as a poet, and as a politician. Knowing, believing that individuals have worth and the ability to make good decisions and add to society would given the oomph to want to achieve great things, to have a voice in politics, to think differently/to disagree with his tutors, to write something that he knew would shock and alienate him from most of the people around him, and to ultimately add his voice and ideas to the creation story itself.


  1. Isn't it interesting that even though Milton completely disagreed with Hobbes, he always credited Hobbes for being an intelligent person with well thought out ideas?

  2. In high school, I recall Sir Thomas More's political views being held up on a pedestal while Milton, Locke and other liberty-minded folks seemed to be briefly, how ever respectfully, mentioned. Was this just my school? Or are we giving establishment-loving folks like More and Hobbes more attention nation-wide?

  3. That is interesting because I recall having the same experience but I never thought to consider what it meant. What is it with those fore-thinkers that causes teachers to push them under the radar?

  4. What do you think of Christians as radicals? Aren't Christians peacemakers and morally conservative in general? It will be interesting to see if your views develop on Christian humanists like Milton.