Great Books 102: Renaissance to Modern

Milton's Paradise Lost and the Drama of Self-Knowledge


One of the five great epic poems of the Western literary tradition, John Milton’s Paradise Lost expounds and greatly expands upon the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve. The poem considers in dramatic form broad themes of moral reasoning and free choice and offers a rich exploration of human nature and the ongoing struggle between good and evil. In addition, it boldly seeks to “justify the ways of God to men.” Milton elevates Satan as a seemingly heroic figure in the narrative, jolting the reader to realize his fallen state and to pursue an eternal understanding of the Divine.


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Recommended Readings

Discussion Questions

  • At the beginning of the poem, why is Satan featured so prominently and attractively?
  • Why does Milton include the philosophical and theological discourse involving Raphael?
  • After the fall and redemption or forgiveness, why does Michael give a future history of the Bible?

Q & A Session

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Dwight Lindley is an assistant professor of English at Hillsdale College. He graduated from Hillsdale College and went on to obtain his Ph.D. from the University of Dallas.