Senior Honors Theses

Publication Date

4-2017

School

College of Arts and Sciences

Major

English; Mathematics

Keywords

Milton, Complementarianism, Perelandra, C.S. Lewis, Eve, Criticism

Abstract

This thesis explores the relationship between the genders as expressed in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) and C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra (1943) and the ways in which a modern understanding of gender relationships informs the literary criticism of each work. While these authors composed their works during very different periods in history, Milton and Lewis each write from a complementarian rather than an egalitarian view of gender. Each author embraces a hierarchical conception of the universe. The ramifications of this context on the criticism of the respective works means that the reader or critic must often set aside his or her own presuppositions. Disregarding the views of the text can hinder the reader from initially interpreting the work as its author intended. Since relationships between men and women have changed drastically since Milton’s time, it is especially important for a modern reader to examine what he or she assumes before reading Paradise Lost. Lewis’s extensive writing about medieval literature alerts us to the challenges in interpreting pre-Miltonic texts. This writing also provides an important reference point for how Lewis drew upon Paradise Lost in writing Perelandra. Understanding Lewis’s complementarian presentation of the First Mother in Perelandra allows the modern-day reader to better interpret Milton’s Eve as Milton intended.

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