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Digressive Voices in Early Modern English Literature$
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Anne Cotterill

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199261178

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199261178.001.0001

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Eve's ‘Grateful Digressions’ and the Birth of Reflection

Eve's ‘Grateful Digressions’ and the Birth of Reflection

(p.165) 4 Eve's ‘Grateful Digressions’ and the Birth of Reflection
Digressive Voices in Early Modern English Literature

Anne Cotterill (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that Milton's Paradise Lost represents the ‘grateful digressions’ (8.55) of unfallen Adam and Eve, like the angels' labyrinth dances and mazes of Paradise as examples of heavenly order, in contrast to Satan's unswerving line of hateful pride. Sensitive to the pressures on the psyche created by voices entering the brain through the ever-permeable folds of the ear's labyrinth and their potential to affect ones own voice and ability to hear the divine within, Milton dramatizes through Eve a process of falling into self-knowledge; from her first delight with the world's reflecting surfaces and first experience of having her vision corrected at her ear, she falls through inexperienced, shallow self-reflection toward the bottom of despair before reaching an experience of deepest reflection. Eve's voice of penitence sounds the depths of her fallen knowledge; ventriloquizing all of the voices Milton suggests the difficulty of finding ones own.

Keywords:   Milton, Paradise Lost, Eve, Satan, labyrinth, self-reflection, ear, knowledge

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