After Adam and Eve’s temptation in John Milton’s biblical epic Paradise Lost, the Earth is drastically altered to reflect humans’ fallen state. The planet is knocked off its axis, animals turn on one another, and the character of existence itself changes: from now on, life on Earth will no longer be harmonised, or work towards wholeness. Against the perfect harmony of Eden, the new character of the world is outrageous—a permanent state of disorder.
This presentation explores Milton’s novel concept of nature, expressed not in terms of harmony and balance, but of discontinuity and conflict. Standing at the crossroads between traditional and modern thought, Milton is, paradoxically, a valuable figure for understanding the origins of our own disenchanted view of the natural world. From planetary weather systems to humans’ proper relationship with living and ‘liveless’ things, the presentation will ask how Milton himself understood nature, and how we can adapt Milton’s application of the ‘great chain of being’ to contemporary concerns about disaster and climate change.
Dr. Miles Link is a Research Associate in the College of Foreign Languages and Literatures in Fudan University in Shanghai. He received his Ph.D. from Trinity College Dublin. He has published on the works of H.G. Wells, the British science fiction author John Wyndham, and contemporary cinema. He is currently completing a monograph on integrating disaster into the philosophy of history.