Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Literary and Cultural Studies
Catherine G Martin
John D Miles
Literary scholars have recently shown renewed interest in John Milton’s unconventional religious and political thought. Milton was at odds with the dominant Protestant theology of his day. He believed that humans had free will, thus rejecting the central Calvinist doctrine that God predestined men for salvation or damnation. He also rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, claiming that Christ was not equal with God the Father, but rather a subordinate being. These departures from Protestant thought have considerable impact upon Milton’s major poems, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. While scholars have explored the role of Milton’s heretical thought, this study investigates how biblical typology deepens and augments the unorthodox nature of Milton’s works. In the seventeenth century, Protestant writers published many handbooks explaining how to read scripture through typology, a system of figuralism in which Old Testament events and figures (types) prefigured New Testament figures and spiritual truths (antitypes). This study explores the relationship of this interpretive method to Milton’s work, and inquires into how the typological structures of his poems underscore their unconventional theology. Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained create a typology between Milton’s Satan and the Son that reveals the congruity of the two characters’ natures while simultaneously stressing the great disparity of their choices. For Milton, the deceiver and the Savior are both created beings, subordinate to God the Father, who choose fundamentally different paths: Satan effects the fall of mankind while Christ brings its redemption. In Samson Agonistes, Milton portrays a lesser, human character who is faced with a similar choice: he must either submit to his Philistine oppressors or sacrifice his life for the salvation of his people. Initially, Milton’s Samson does experience a fall, but of his own volition he repents, creating a powerful type of Christian repentance. Ultimately, Samson gives his life to save his people, so also becoming a type of Christ’s salvation through sacrifice. In this way, Milton’s poetry presents a radical reworking of Protestant typology that emphasizes the importance of free will rather than God’s sovereignty.
Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Wade, Everett T., "The Contemporary Context of Milton's Typology: Biblical Exegesis and Literature in the Seventeenth Century" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1122.