Title

John Milton’s Orphic Dependency

Date of Award

Fall 12-2015

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in English

Department

English

Advisor

Abraham Stoll

Advisor

Jeanie Moore

Advisor

Maura Watson

Abstract

The 17th-century poet John Milton invokes Ovid’s Orpheus as a source of strength and security in overcoming barriers of instability and insecurity, ultimately enabling Milton to claim his own authority as both a prophesizing poet and a bounds-breaking seeker of Classical knowledge. It is my argument that Milton’s dependency on Orpheus has been overlooked, and that it is only through an Orphic foundation that Milton is able to reach beyond artistic creativity, into higher registers of inspiration.

Milton repeatedly invokes the Orpheus in both his prose and poetry, including: Paradise Lost, Ad Patrem, Lycidas, and various sonnets and elegies. These invocations appear when Milton is grappling with challenges stemming from theological, political, and internal conflict. Collectively, they enable Milton to reimagine the power and potential of the Poet as one who: regards intellectual doubt as the highest means of attaining great knowledge, fashions himself within his characters to process impacts of change, and trusts in his vocation so unshakably that his identity is inextricably bound to his role as the Poet.

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