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"All the Lord's people are become Prophets": Prophecy and Reason in Milton's Paradise Regained

Fri, March 23, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Hilton Riverside, 1st Level - Grand Salon Breakout 18

Abstract

In Areopagitica, Milton declares that “all the Lord’s people are become Prophets” in England (CPW 2:266) because the common people, newly freed from censorship, have begun discoursing freely about religion. Like the Socinians on the continent, Milton saw Christian prophecy not as a Moses-like authority to speak on God’s behalf, but rather as a form of public teaching. This approach supported Milton’s humanist belief that all educated Englishmen should participate actively in religious and political life. In this paper, I argue that Milton returns to this vision of prophecy in Paradise Regained. Although recent criticism has argued for an anti-humanist turn in this poem, I argue that Milton returns to Areopagitica’s link between prophecy and humanist education. In particular, I demonstrate that Milton’s messiah in Paradise Regained behaves like a Christian prophet by approaching scripture critically, thus establishing an example that Milton hoped would be followed by ordinary Englishmen.

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