Milton’s thinking and oeuvre divide historical time and place the poet and his subjects on the verges of periodizing metamorphoses: different eras of epistemology, religious dispensations, archaeologies of knowledge, kinds of global consciousness, rival explanations of natural phenomena, and opposed physical and/or ethical sympathies. The copresence of polarized historical periods in Milton’s work remains a distinguishing feature; examples from preceding and succeeding periods make the case for recognizing in Milton a pivotal moment in English literary history and the history of ideas. In major fictions and narrations Milton’s poetry apperceives, thematizes, and embodies—prehensively, as it were—a unique occasion of historical change, as if from BC to AD: from John Dee to Robert Boyle, or from occult correspondences and secret world-connecting sympathies, to mechanical operations, controlled and repeatable experiments, and measurement-based, post-Baconian science. Milton’s Eve sins as the world’s first experimentalist and in effect breaks the World-Soul’s cosmic heart: even as Spenser’s Agape had previously re-created it allegorically, Neoplatonically, and metaphysically, and as philosophies of social consensus and psychologies of empathetic affect recollected it sentimentally and benevolently. Post-Miltonically, Satan has earned sympathy or pity: upon Sin’s attaching our world with a great chain of necessitarian and material causality.

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