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Place and Space in Paradise Lost Essay

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In the first three books of Paradise Lost, we find a number of instances in which the physiographic, atmospheric, and geomorphological characteristics of the text’s cosmography are described, allowing the reader a degree of purchase in their struggle to orient themselves within the various settings in which they find themselves following the In Media Res plunge into the “fiery gulf” (I.54) of “yon lake of fire” (I.280). While geographic detail is by no means a prolific element of the text, the instances of geographic detail we find largely feature independent descriptions of regions that stand in notable isolation from one another. Rather than offering a geometrical approximation of spatial relationships between these regions, the reader is instead presented with a series of isolated locales, in which direction, bearing and scale are notably either vague or unspecified. The first example of this occurs when, surveilling the region in which he finds himself following the fall, Satan finds the “dismal situation waste and wild / A dungeon horrible, on all sides round / As one great furnace flamed...” (I.60-62). The only real geographic information we are offered in this initial depiction of hell is that it contains “Regions of sorrow…” (I.65).
While subsequent passages that deal with the geography of hell, notably the description of the mount that is stripped of it’s gold to build Pandemonium (I.669-674) and the lands encountered by the devils who spread out to explore following Satan’s departure (II.570-626), include some, and in the case of the latter ample physiographic detail, the closest we come to a an explanation of the relationship between the various regions of hell is that there are four rivers that run through them (II.57...


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...se Lost.’” ELH 74.1 (2007): 27-57. Web. 9 Dec 2013.

Kirby, Jeremy. Aristotle's Metaphysics: Form, Matter, and Identity. London: Continuum, 2008. Web. 10 Dec 2013.

Sarkar, Malabika. Cosmos and Character in Paradise Lost. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Web. 10 Dec 2013.

Milton, John, and John Leonard. Paradise Lost. London: Penguin, 2000. Print.

“Rene Descartes”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 10 Dec 2013

"Pierre de Fermat". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 10 Dec 2013

Rumrich, John. “Milton's God and the Matter of Chaos.” PMLA 110.5 (1995): 1035-1046. Web. 10 Dec 2013.

Staykova, Julia. “Structures and Perception in the Similes of ‘Paradise Lost.’” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 53.1 (2013): 157-178. Web. 9 Dec 2013.



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