Raphael's rhetoric : the progymnasmata in Paradise Lost.


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In the middle third of Paradise Lost, Milton famously depicts Adam and Eve receiving an education from the angel Raphael. My dissertation examines the rhetorical nature of this education, noting specifically Milton's synthesis of biblical sources with Aphthonius's progymnasmata. I argue that Milton uses the formal structure of the Aphthonian themes to model a discursive, Christian pedagogy. By pairing Aphthonian themes with Raphael's embodiment of scripture, Milton demonstrates the manner in which the progymnasmata strengthens human reason in order to allow for the free reception and interpretation of divine revelation. Understanding Milton's synthesis offers two advantages for the reader of Paradise Lost. First, understanding the purpose of Raphael's pedagogy as strengthening human moral choice solves the problem of Raphael's apparent failure. Because Adam still chooses to fall after receiving the angelic education, many critics assume that Raphael's lessons fail. But such a reading goes against the poem's explicit intention to "justifie the wayes of God to men" (PL 1.26). If Raphael's education fails, the failure is ultimately God's for either sending a faulty teacher or creating a faulty student. Understanding the purpose of Adam's education as promoting and strengthening his capacity for free choice, rather than as ensuring obedience, allows for the poem to succeed on its own terms. Second, the synthesis of scripture and progymnasmata suggests that the free choice available to Adam remains available for the Miltonic reader. Because readers have access to divine revelation through the Bible and the incarnate Word, they are able to strengthen their reason in preparation for the same moral choices faced by Adam. To demonstrate this argument, my dissertation examines Books 5-8 of Paradise Lost in light of their underlying Aphthonian structure. Finally, I conclude by examining Milton's account of the Fall in Book 9. Here I demonstrate Adam's use of Aphthonius to structure his thought, clarifying the manner in which the formal structures of the Aphthonian themes used by Adam reveal both his self-deception and the possibility of his obedient choice.



John Milton. Rhetoric. Aphthonius. Progymnasmata. Pedagogy.