Type of Document Dissertation Author Silverman, William John URN etd-03292011-194102 Title Seeing While Blind: Disability, Theories Of Vision, And Milton's Poetry Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Bruce Boehrer Committee Chair Anne Coldiron Committee Member Elizabeth Spiller Committee Member Martin Kavka University Representative Keywords
- John Milton
- Theories Of Vision
- Historical Phenomenology
Date of Defense 2011-03-03 Availability unrestricted AbstractSeeing while Blind: Disability, Theories of Vision, and Miltonís Poetry demonstrates that Milton used his blindness as a literary trope to represent blindness and vision in his poetry. It also addresses how blindness affected the way Milton saw the world through his poetry. Milton invested a scientific interest in his blindness, as evidenced by his letters to Philaras. That Blindness had an impact on Miltonís poetry is a given that many readers take for granted. Many scholars have addressed the impact Miltonís blindness had on his poetry, and a few have even attempted to retroactively diagnose Miltonís condition, but some of the best work has situated Miltonís blindness in a cultural context.
When Milton started to lose his sight, and realized how much he relied on sight as a poet, he likely realized the importance of advances in natural philosophy, and especially in ďphysick.Ē Therefore Milton pursued all medical avenues available to him in an effort to save his sight. Miltonís obsession to stave off blindness split him between the way he saw himself as a poet and the way he saw himself as a Christian. Milton identifies specific developments in natural philosophy and medicine that relate to oneís ability to see. This shows the poetís interest in human endeavors to improve the fallen body and seek new ways to acquire the ďwisdom at one entrance quite shutĒ (PL III.50). At the same time, Miltonís blind personas and characters often simultaneously lament blindness and rejoice in the divine guidance it solicits. Milton never seems able to reconcile this dichotomy, but it reveals more nuances in meaning as well as the greater influence experimental philosophy had on his poetry.
As readers a few hundred years removed from the age of Milton, we cannot experience the world the way he did. Our senses are cut off from his experiences. However, through careful research and analysis, we can reconstruct Miltonís world. Though we have a much greater understanding of the way the body functions today, Miltonís world viewed the functions of the body through a different criterion. Milton still negotiates his world through other senses, which he uses to create new worlds and which he uses to access a wisdom not shut out by his blindness. Through his efforts, Milton creates a new way to see the world poetically.
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