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Department of English Language and Literature pres.

How Gardens Feel: The Natural History of Sensation in Spenser and Milton

Lecture by Michael Schoenfeldt

This essay considers the ways that Edmund Spenser and John Milton focus their considerable epics on the scrupulous calibration of physical sensation with a range of environmental textures. Spenser, I argue, offers a lush topography of corporeal temptation; he is primarily concerned with how environments can pollute individuals. Milton, by contrast, is concerned both with the ways that environments can pollute individuals, and the ways that individuals pollute environments. The landscapes of Spenser and Milton challenge individuals to manage their responses to sensuous environmental stimuli. While Spenser creates a lush paradisal garden that must be boisterously razed by a knight representing the virtue of Temperance, Milton proposes that if humans behave temperately, they might erect within themselves the infrastructure of a lost paradise.
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