In this episode of Promiscuous Listening, Marissa talks with Dr. Rachel Trubowitz (University of New Hampshire) about death and renewal in the final two books of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Particular attention is given to Eve’s role in the epic’s concluding lessons about Jesus’s death and Christian salvation. For Milton, “Jesus son of Mary second Eve” (10.183) descends spiritually on the maternal line rather than genealogically through the paternal bloodline. In this way, as Dr. Trubowitz puts it, “Bloodline and primogeniture (male birthright) play no role in defining Jesus’s sovereignty” in Paradise Lost — nor should they, according to Milton, in England’s governance.
References for this episode:
- John Milton, The Passion (1645, 1673)
- John Milton, Paradise Regained (1671)
- Pope John Paul XXIII led the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, including its “repudiate[ion of] the ancient charge of collective Jewish guilt in the death of Jesus.”
- Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” King James Bible via Bible Gateway.
- The description of the final books of Paradise Lost as an “undigested lump of futurity” comes from C.S. Lewis’s A Preface to Paradise Lost (Oxford University Press, 1947).
- Check out this contemporary engraving on the British Museum website of Charles II’s exhumation and posthumous execution of Oliver Cromwell’s body.
More about our guest, Dr. Rachel Trubowitz, Professor of English and former President of the Milton Society of America (website)
In addition to her many publications on gender and race in Milton and his contemporaries, Dr. Trubowitz’s current work focuses on mathematics in early modern English literature and culture. Here’s a sampling of her recent scholarship:
- “Reading Milton and Newton in the Radical Reformation: Poetry, Mathematics, and Religion.” ELH: English Literary History 84, no. 1 (2017): 33-62.
- “The Consolation of Natural Philosophy: Margaret Cavendish and the English Revolution Book.” The Oxford Handbook of Literature & the English Revolution, edited by Laura Lunger Knoppers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 656-668.
- Nature and Nurture in Seventeenth-Century English Literature. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012.
- “’The People of Asia and with Them the Jews’: Israel, Asia, and England in Milton’s Writing.” Milton and the Jews, edited by Douglas A. Brooks. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 151-177.