English Language and Literature ETDs

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This study was begun with the conviction that a systematic exposition of the theology of original sin would throw new light on the meaning of Paradise Lost. The traditional and the Reformational conceptions of the conditions of innocent and fallen man examined here will provide, I hope, a basis for determining more accurately both Milton's own ideas and his adaption of them to his artistic purpose. Recent criticism has raised important questions about the meaning of Paradise Lost: Were Adam and Eve really fallen before they fell? Was their fall a "climax of self-realization," a maturation, or was it a felix culpa only in the traditional sense? What direction did Milton's thought take in its obvious departure from the Reformational conception that the Fall left human nature totally depraved, and did this departure indicate that Milton entirely abandoned the idea of original sin? Is the theme of Paradise Lost the vindication of human freedom, the victory of passion over reason, or something else? I cannot promise that the questions are all satisfactorily answered in this study, but possibly the answers given will help make Paradise Lost less ambiguous.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Norton Barr Crowell

Second Committee Member

Cecil Vivian Wicker

Third Committee Member

Hubert Griggs Alexander



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