Monday, November 25, 2013

An Exploratory, Annotated Bibliography on Satan's Humanity in Paradise Lost

I laid out my working thesis in a post last week, but I wanted to post a revised version, in addition to a number of social and media resources that will eventually be incorporated into my final paper:


Although Milton draws upon strong religious and archetypal currents in crafting his Satan figure in Paradise Lost, truly understanding the arch-fiend's character (and thus, the epic as a whole) requires that the reader dissociate Satan's character from that of the Biblical adversary. Rather, Satan should be interpreted as a representation of the fallen condition of mankind and thus as a lens for better understanding human nature and the concept of self.


I posted an initial query as to interest in Paradise Lost on my Facebook account and received a number of responses from friends who either had read or were reading Paradise Lost. A couple of them even contributed resources for my study of Satan's humanity.
  • Christopher Lew, a friend from my chemistry days, said that he had read it but had the most experience in the beginning and the end. He might be a good one to talk to about Satan specifically, as the beginning kind of lays out his character.
  • Jordan Callister, a good friend from the Russian department, said he's reading it right now and "LOVE[S] IT," so he would likely be good to talk to as well, especially since he's reading it recreationally rather than as an assignment. That shows real interest in the subjects.
  • Danny Cardoza, a close friend from my internship in Moscow and one of my most active supporters and contributors, said he had read Paradise Lost something like eight years ago, but I'll likely still discuss it with him in greater detail, in that discussions with him always go interesting places and lead me to neat ideas.
  • Evan Preece, an acquaintance from the Foreign Language Student Residency (FLSR), said he'd read it, and while I don't know how rigorous of a reading that was, he sounds like he would be a good enthusiast to bounce some ideas off of.
  • Aleesha Bass, a cohort member from my digital culture class, linked to a Prezi that she worked on last year. It talks about Satan and the heroic tradition, an idea that I've seen come up in a number of other resources. Aleesha likely has a lot to say about Satan's character, and I'd especially be interested in learning more about the comparisons she makes in the Prezi, i.e. to Achilles, Hamlet, etc.
  • Ryan Schnell, another friend from the FLSR, linked me to a couple of articles by a Biblical scholar, Father Patrick Madigan, who presented at BYU not long ago. They address the expressive individualism and rebellious imagination of Satan in Paradise Lost and draw the comparison between the arch-fiend and modern man. Ryan is also a Biblical scholar-to-be, so he might be a good resource for investigating historical conceptions of Satan.
  • My mom and sister both majored in English, so I'll likely be shooting ideas at them over Thanksgiving break. I don't think they've read PL of late, but they nonetheless could provide some feedback for my flow of arguments.
  • I also noticed that Heather and Jonathan are looking at aspects of Satan's humanity, so they'd likely be good resources and/or collaborative partners. 


I explored a bit of alternative media resources for Paradise Lost in my recent blog post, "Media Resources on Satan's Humanity in Paradise Lost." I wanted to look at some blogs this time, as well as some other resources that I found on YouTube.

This blog post compares Paradise Lost to the 1997 film, Devil's Advocate, elucidating the parallel between the Miltonic Satan and Al Pacino's modern-day representation, a lawyer by the name of John Milton. In a statement that mirrors the 'human' experience of the Miltonic Satan figure, the film's anti-hero remarks, “I've nurtured every sensation man’s been inspired to have. I cared about what he wanted and I never judged him. Why? Because I never rejected him. In spite of all his imperfections, I’m a fan of man! I’m a humanist. Maybe the last humanist” (emphasis mine).

This blog post on the B&N Community "Unabashedly Bookish" talks about the existentialist streaks of Satan  and presents anti-hero's indomitable freedom as a foundation for his humanity. Poster M_Brendle writes, "Satan is infinitely more relatable than the inchoate Adam and Eve precisely because of his horrible, absolute freedom. . . Satan chooses evil, which some men do and some men don’t, but the situation in which he finds himself – abandoned, outcast, alone, longing, defiant, unsure, and irredeemable – is the situation for all men, and it is Milton’s brilliant illustration of the existential human condition that makes his Satan and his poem so important for modern readers." These ideas tie directly into my study of the humanity of Satan and support my central claim that we should read Satan as a representation of the human condition.

The blog, "I'm All Booked"  mostly just provides a summary of Paradise Lost, but I did find a link to an article that is right up my alley in terms of subject matter. As one might expect from its title, "A Comparison of the Falls of Satan and of Humanity in Paradise Lost" parallels the falls of Satan and mankind and likewise places an emphasis on the similarities of Eve and Satan, a relationship that I address specifically in my research. I'm a bit wary of the article, in that it doesn't have an author listed, but it nonetheless provides analysis of the "human" faults that eventually bring about Satan and mankind's downfall: pride, ambition, vengeance, idolatry, envy, and deceit.

On Banana Steaks, a blog devoted to essays and poetry, I found "A Thorough Examination of Satan's True Motives and Character in Paradise Lost." It provides a reasonably detailed look at some of Satan's more human characteristics, like his need for love and his inner moral struggles. These tie in to my conception of Satan as a representation of one of the various degrees of human fallenness and so serves as a reflection of mankind's own condition.

This blog is less rigorous than other resources, but I was especially intrigued by "A Letter to the Highest," a fictionalized personal letter from Satan to God. I guess I had never really thought of something so ordinary as a letter, but in some sense, the idea is somewhat appealing: a list of grievances, a letter of complaint. It seems to almost humanize the interaction and paint Satan as a regular person with his own problems and modes of resolving problems.

JKDC's production of Paradise Lost
I just stumbled on this dance interpretation of Paradise Lost, which is being presented by Janak Khendry Dance Company this December in Toronto.

In an essay entitled, "The Real Devil: A Biblical Exploration," Duncan Heaster remarks on the historical depictions of Satan, drawing upon a diversity of cultural influences in crafting the modern Christian view of Satan. Most interesting was his commentary on the Qu'ran's account of Satan's fall, which suggests that Satan refused to bow down to man and was thus cast down. This ties in with my concept of Milton's Adam as a representation of deity (as opposed to the parallels of Eve and Satan, who represent humanity). And on a side note, I found this essay through a YouTube video that basically just scrolled through the essay with music in the background.


For some reason, I haven't had much luck finding communities geared around the academic study of the humanity of Satan in Paradise Lost (despite the apparent abundance of Satanist websites on the Internet). This is, of course, in jest, in that the topic is fairly specific, and lots of people haven't even heard of Milton, but in any case, I managed to find a few communities and networks that would be useful in getting social feedback.

  • The Milton Society account on Twitter has a bunch of followers, so it could serve as a good hub for finding people. It looks like the account managers post quotes every Monday, so apparently there's someone on the other end who's interested in Milton as well.
  • The Milton-L Home Page has discussion forums about Milton and related topics. It looks like they also host a yearly seminar in March or April and a number of booths at the National MLA conference, so I'll be keeping my eyes open for calls for papers within the next while to see if I can submit my research.
  • I also found Miltonic, which is supposedly "[a] community for students of Milton," but it looks like no one has posted in quite a while. I don't think I'll pursue this, though it is interesting to think that something like this functioned for a number of years. That might have been by requirement to get class credit, but nonetheless, it'd be interesting to see where some of the posters are now.

  • Fish, Stanley. Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost. 1967. Cambridge: Harvard U P, 1997. Print.
As I've noted in my previous posts, "Though I Walk Through the Valley" and "Surprised by Fish," Fish provides an overview of the reader's role in Paradise Lost. He draws a number of parallels between the condition of Satan and mankind, so his analysis fits directly into my study of Satan's humanity.
  • Bloom, Harold. The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life. New Haven, CT: Yale U P. 2011. Print.
In his chapter on "Milton's Hamlet," Bloom addresses the similarities between the melancholy Dane and Milton's Satan figure, addressing questions of Satan's humanity. I was browsing Yahoo editorials when I stumbled on Bloom's concept that we ought to read Paradise Lost from a secular point of view, but when I couldn't find anything about it in his literature, I decided to email Bloom himself. He responded back last night suggesting that I take a look at this chapter in his book. I haven't had a chance to read it in much detail yet, but I'm excited to see what kind of connections it holds.

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