John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) retells the story of the fall of man: the temptation of Adam and Eve and their subsequent expulsion from the garden of Eden. In this talk Daniel Shore, professor and chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, will investigate the limits of possible experience through the motif of “worse” and “worst.” When the poem’s fallen characters ask “How bad can experience get?” what they discover, to their horror, is that it can always get worse. Rather than engaging in systematic philosophy of normal, stable, and coherent universal experience, Milton used the speculative liberty of poetry to represent the diversity of his fallen characters – Satan preeminent among them – approaching and transgressing experience’s ever lower limits.
This event is sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project and Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. It is part of the year-long series, Cultural Encounters: Books that Have Made a Difference.