November 6, 2023

The Limits of Worst

Bad Experience in “Paradise Lost”

Event Series: Cultural Encounters: Books that Have Made a Difference

Showing the The Limits of Worst: Bad Experience in "Paradise Lost" Video

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.


Daniel Shore

Daniel Shore

Daniel Shore is professor and chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, where he teaches early modern literature, critical theory, and digital humanities. He is the author of Cyberformalism: Histories of Linguistic Forms in the Digital Archive (2018) and Milton and the Art of Rhetoric (2012) and has published articles in PMLA, Critical Inquiry, Modern Philology, Shakespeare Quarterly, Milton Studies, and Digital Humanities Quarterly.

Michael Scott

Michael Scott

Michael Scott (moderator), is senior dean, fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college advisor for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior advisor to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously served as the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University, where he is professor emeritus.