UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Milton impregnated : feminizng chaos in Paradise Lost Yu, Shian (Tim)


In the first invocation of Paradise Lost, God is depicted as impregnating Chaos with the seed of a world, suggesting an intricate connection between the creation of the cosmos and reproduction. Yet, despite the acknowledgement of many critics such as Neil Forsyth that “one of the most original ideas in Paradise Lost is Chaos” (77), there seems to be little scholarship that closely explores the relationship between Chaos, impregnation, and creation. If God is impregnating the abyss, the abyss must be feminized in some way. This thesis considers the ways Milton feminizes Chaos as a space and argues that Paradise Lost presents a complicated and often inconsistent attempt to appropriate the language of reproduction and the female body in order to gender Chaos and the multiverse. Focusing on the female womb, and the culturally generated traits such as leakiness and double-formedness associated with the female body, Milton depicts a deterritorialized, grotesque cosmos where the boundaries and distinctions between Heavenly and Hellish spaces and bodies are muddled and intertwined. Inside this grotesque multiverse, Chaos becomes a kind of feminine Goddess who gives birth to the universes alongside God and the various cosmic spaces and bodies take on a more mutable nature unbounded by the strict laws of the body. Yet Milton also seems to affirm some hierarchies between masculinity and femininity that are prevalent during his time by suggesting that the masculine aspects of his cosmos (i.e. God) are sometimes more significant than their feminine counterparts (i.e. Chaos). Furthermore, the epic also seems to accept some of the cultural characteristics that demonize the female body by presenting it as monstrous, feeble, and incorrigible in addition to acknowledging its subversive, generative and transformative nature. In the end, by delving into the seemingly inconsistent, conflicting ways in which the cosmic spaces of Paradise Lost are gendered as well as examining Milton’s complicated treatment of gendered bodies, this project illustrates that the very evidence of inconsistency and contradiction is the epic’s way to assert the spatially mutable and gender-fluid nature of the cosmos.

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