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Milton in the Long Restoration$
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Blair Hoxby and Ann Baynes Coiro

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198769774

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198769774.001.0001

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Milton and the People

Milton and the People

(p.483) 26 Milton and the People
Milton in the Long Restoration

Joanna Picciotto

Oxford University Press

Milton’s account of creation is examined alongside the discourse of physico-theology, which read ‘the book of nature’ as a testament to the wisdom and benevolence of its divine author. To recover the physico-theological tradition is to reveal continuities between revolutionary England and post-Restoration culture that scholars have long ignored, for although the physico-theological craze is a post-Restoration phenomenon, its founding texts date from the revolutionary period. Writing in the physico-theological mode always sets itself the same (impossible) task: leveraging the new natural history to do the work of theodicy. Instead of engaging the natural world through allegorical interpretation, physico-theology attempts to analyse a system, reconstructing and imaginatively inhabiting each subject position within that system. The project of physico-theology provides a bridge between the age of Milton and the age of the novel; the habits of thought it encouraged were precisely those suited to the new prose fiction.

Keywords:   John Milton, Paradise Lost, physico-theology, James Thomson, The Seasons, William Derham, John Ray, Henry More, sympathy, ecology

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