Lowly Wisdom: An Ecological Reading of Book Eight in Paradise Lost
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This thesis offers an ecocritical and rhetorical analysis of the archangel Raphael's discourse on the limits of human knowledge in Book Eight of Paradise Lost (8.64-178); my argument outlines the connection between a theistic monist ontology and an epistemology of lowly wisdom in John Milton’s epic. Examining the moment where Milton uses Raphael to say to Adam, “Heaven is for thee too high / To know what passes there; / be lowlie wise” (8.172-73), I contend that when Raphael delimits Adam’s questions about cosmology, he instead grounds the search for knowledge in ecology. Rather than presenting nature as the object of human analysis, lowly wisdom offers an understanding of nature and the self as contiguous sites of meaning.