Barbara K. Lewalski, ‘Milton, Galileo and the Opening to Science’

University of Sussex, Conference Centre – Bramber House, 3rd Floor, Falmer, Brighton

Professor Barbara K. Lewalski has been William R. Kenan Professor of English Literature and of History and Literature. Among her numerous publications include The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography (2000); Writing Women in Jacobean England (1993); Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms (1985); Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century English Lyric (1979); Milton’s Brief Epic (1966).


Though chronology and circumstances make it unlikely that Milton knew or knew of Newton, he did know Galileo personally and was interested in science all his life. Moreover he had to engage directly the question of how to relate science and religion in his great biblical epic, Paradise Lost, first published in 1667. How, given the authority many in his society accorded to the literal text of scripture, was he to treat his biblical story from Genesis, and how represent the vast cosmos – heaven, hell, chaos, earth, and the region of the planets and stars – within which his characters are situated and sometimes move? Scholars for almost a century have sought to pin down Milton’s own cosmology in the light of language throughout the poem pertaining to both the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems, and especially the scene in which the angel Raphael offers a defense of both, refusing Adam’s ernest plea to determine the matter. I mean to suggest here the principles that allowed Milton to escape the strictures of biblical literalism, and to argue that, far from displaying his own uncertainties about, or accommodating readers’ various views on the cosmos, he treats that issue in terms that allow for the science of his present and the future.


The lecture will be followed by drinks and cocktail finger buffet from 19.00 till 20.00

The cost is £10 (standard); £8 (students and retired)

For registration and further information, please contact: [email protected] or phone 01323 873 220

RSVP essential before July 13