Sunday 21 September 2014

Human Perspective vs Divine Perspective: Milton's Paradise Lost Book IX

The Human Perspective and the Divine Perspective: The Human-Centric Lens: Rethinking 'Genesis' and 'Paradise Lost' in Renaissance Literature

~ Dilip Barad

The Renaissance and Reformation eras brought about a profound transformation in the socio-cultural landscape of Europe by shifting the focus from a God-centric worldview to one centered around humanity. This shift had a far-reaching impact on various aspects of life, including literature. This research article delves into the intriguing phenomenon of how these shifts manifested in the retelling of biblical narratives, specifically in 'Genesis' from The Holy Bible and Book IX from John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

'Genesis' presents the story of the Fall from God's perspective, where characters like Adam and Eve appear as flat, emotionless figures. However, critical questions arise regarding the fairness of God's judgments. Why is the serpent, an instrument used by Satan, cursed instead of Satan? Why are Eve's descendants punished for her disobedience? Adam's culpability, too, seems inadequately addressed. 'Genesis' predominantly remains a God-centric narrative, overlooking the perspectives of Adam, Eve, or even the serpent.

In contrast, John Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' particularly in Book IX, offers a human-centric reinterpretation of the same story. Milton's portrayal grants intentionality to Eve's actions, emphasizing her pursuit of knowledge, equality, and free will. This human perspective reframes Eve's character, potentially redeeming her intentions. Furthermore, the portrayal of Adam's actions as driven by human emotions such as ambition, envy, revenge, and spite aligns the narrative with a distinctly human viewpoint. Satan, too, takes on human qualities, making the narrative more relatable.

This article argues that literary works inevitably align with the human perspective, as authors cannot forsake human emotions and experiences in favor of religious or divine perspectives. Literature thrives on the rich tapestry of human virtues and vices, serving as a mirror to human existence. In literature, the human perspective stands as the primary and indispensable vantage point, with all other viewpoints converging upon it. Ultimately, the core of literature resides in its portrayal of human beings and their experiences.

Paradigm Shift from God-centric to Human-centric:

One of the major changes Renaissance and Reformation brought in socio-cultural life of Europe was the paradigm shift from God-centric world to human-centric one. The renewed interest in Humanism decentered God and replaced (Hu)Man at the center of the Universe. If all the walks of life were affected, how can literature remain aloof? All those 'stories' in scriptures (mainly The Holy Bible) which were said from the Divine perspective were retold from Human perspective. Some of the narratives seemed telling the stories from the Divine perspective, but, actually, they were not.
Let us try to explore this hypothesis. We will take bird's eye view of 'Genesis' from The Holy Bible and Book IX from Paradise Lost. John Milton proposed in 'Argument' to 'justify the ways of God to men'. In fact, he moves on the justify '(Hu)Man's ways in this world'.

In 'Genesis', the 'Fall' is narrated from God's perspective. Obviously, God is the center of Bible. The characters of Adam and Eve are flat, lifeless and mere puppet. They do not have any emotion or feeling or voice. The Satan-Serpent tempted Eve, Eve tempted Adam and the Fall happened. God emerged and punished all three. Many questions remained unanswered in the God's Justice.

The Angry God

  • If Satan used serpent's body to harm Adam, Eve and Eden, why should it be punished instead of Satan:
"Because you have done this, cursed are you above
all cattle, and above all wild animals upon your belly you shall
go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put
enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed
and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise
his heel." (God in Genesis)

  • If Eve is to be punished for her 'disobedience', why should her children also be cursed: "I will put enmity between... your seed and her seed". (God). To curse Eve to multiply her pain in childbearing is not fair way to punish her.
"I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (God)

  • If Adam shares the guilt, he is not fairly well judged and punished. He seems to be in God's good book:
"And to Adam he said, "Because you
have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the
tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,'
cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it
all the days of your life;thorns and thistles it shall bring forth
to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat
of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you
shall return." (God)

Regretful Adam and Eve - God's Wrath on the act of Disobedience (Natoire)

Well, the entire story of Genesis is quite obviously, God centric. It is narrated from Divine perspective. It does not take care of Adam or Eve or Serpent's perspective.

When we come to John Milton's Paradise Lost (esp. Book IX), we realise that the same story is told from Human perspective. Seemingly, it tries to justify ways of God to man, whereas, in reality, it retells the story from Human perspective. Let us see, how it happens.

There are two major instances where we find the human perspective governing the plot of Book IX.
If inferior, Who is Free?
  • Firstly, Eve is responsible for disobedience and thus Fall of man. Her wily act is that of touching and tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Nevertheless, she is presented with an intention to act. This giving an intention to act is where Milton brings in human perspective. Eve intention to taste the fruit was to gain 'knowledge', to be equal to Adam, to know good and evil as God seems to know it all, to be superior to Adam 'for, to be inferior, who is free'? She wanted to be 'free'. She wanted to exercise her free will and reason which is gifted by God. With this clarity in mind, she does what she does. She is human being and thus, acts like human being. Milton is a poet. The poet stands in favour of humans rather than God. Unknowingly, perhaps, Milton redeems Eve by giving her intentions which are quite noble and unproblematic.

  • Secondly, the act of Adam. Adam is  also driven by human emotion: 
Adam's love for Eve was genuine and selfless (Stovring)

"Should God create another Eve, and I

Another rib afford, yet loss of thee

Would never from my heart. No, no! I feel

The link of nature draw me: flesh of flesh,

Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy state

Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe." 
(Book IX, Paradise Lost)
His intentions are not tempted or forced upon him. He, after deep thinking, decides to be on the side of Eve rather than God. It is 'Love' - the human emotion - which drives him. 

  • We can read the character of Satan also being driven by human emotion.
Satan and found The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field (Doré)

But what will not ambition and revenge

Descend to? Who aspires must down as low

As high he soared, obnoxious, first or last,

To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,

Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.

Let it; I reck not, so it light well aimed,

Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favourite
Of Heaven, this Man of Clay, son of despite,
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid."
(Book IX, Paradise Lost)
These so called deadly sins like 'ambition', 'envy'. 'revenge' and 'spiteful' which Satan represents are quite human. No human can deny absence of these rather negative emotions in the breast of this Man of Clay. Therefore, Satan is also presented with human perspective. 


Literary writers, however hard they try, can't be on the side of God or religion at the cost of humans. Human beings, with all their virtues and vices, are the raw material of literature. Literature can't exist if it does anything sacrificing human emotions and feelings at the altar of religion / God. It is made by, made for and made of human beings. The human perspective is not one of the perspectives of literature it is the 'only' perspective of literature.  It may have been used a as prism to reflect rainbow of perspectives. In literature, all other perspectives zero down to Human perspective. The center of literature is human beings.
Humanity reaching out to Divinity (Michelangelo, Creation of Adam) 


Doré, Gustav. “Him, fast sleeping, soon he found in labyrinth of many a round, self-rolled” (IX. 182,183),1866, for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Engraving. (Public Domain)

Holy Bible, King James Bible. 20 Sept. 2014. <>

Michelangelo. Creation of Adam (c. 1511). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. 20 Sept. 2014. <>

Natoire, Charles Joseph. The Rebuke of Adam and Eve. Accessed 11 Sept. 2023.

Stovring, Kim. Adam and Eve. Flickr. 

Online Test:Check your understanding of Book IX of The Paradise Lost.Click here to open online test.

Monday 15 September 2014

Interpretation Challenge: Breath: The Shortest Play by Samuel Beckett

Breath - a Play

While discussing ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’ and Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, we viewed film version of his shortest play ‘Breath’ - a thirty-seconds play. Would you like to take challenge to give interpretation of this shortest play? Give your interpretation after reading the play and a few video versions (scroll down to read-view), in the comment section below this blog-post.

A still from the version of the play - Breath

The script of the play:
1. Faint light on stage littered with miscellaneous rubbish. Hold about five seconds.
2. Faint brief cry and immediately inspiration and slow increase of light together reaching maximum - together in about ten seconds. Silence and hold for about five seconds.
3. Expiration and slow decrease of light together reaching minimum together (light as in 1) in about ten seconds and immediately cry as before. Silence and hold about five seconds. 


Clue to interpret the play:

  • Absurd: philosophy meaningless: lacking any meaning that would give purpose to life 

  • the notion that existence is absurd

  • meaninglessness: the condition of living in a meaningless universe where life has no purpose, especially as a concept in some 20th-century philosophical movements.

    philosophical movement centred on individual existence:
    a philosophical movement begun in the 19th century that denies that the universe has any intrinsic meaning or purpose.
    It requires people to take responsibility for their own actions and shape their own destinies.

    Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

You can view videos of the play:

You are requested to give your opinion / interpretation / review after viewing above mentioned video & below given reading resources.

Friday 12 September 2014

Presentations on William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'

A few presentations on various topics on William Shakespeare's revenge play - tragedy are embedded on this blog post.
After viewing the presentations, would you like to check your understanding of the play 'Hamlet'?
Please appear in this QUIZ to check your understanding:
 Quiz on Hamlet

The Presentation on the Introduction of the play and Renaissance Humanism

  • The Presentation on the Greatness of the play

  • The Presentation on 'Hamlet' as a Revenge Play

  • The Presentation on the structure of the play - Is 'Hamlet' an artistic failure?

Thursday 4 September 2014

Worksheet: Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse

'To The Lighthouse' is one of the best poetic expressions in Virginia Woolf's literary oeuvre. The novel is deeply layered which opportunes us to explore various interpretations, We have discussed following points in the classroom during face-to-face interaction:

Here are some tasks to be completed by the students as a part of self-learning module: (Students have to give responses in the 'Comment' section below this blog post)

  1. How can you explain that 'what' Virginia Woolf wanted to say (for example, the complexity of human relationship, the everyday battles that people are at in their relationship with near and dear ones, the struggle of a female artist against the values of middle/upper class society etc) can only be said in the way she has said? (Key: The 'How' of the narrative technique is to be discussed along with features of Stream of Consciousness technique which helps Woolf to put in effective manner what she experienced in abstractions.)
  2. Do you agree: "The novel is both the tribute and critique of Mrs. Ramsay"? (Key: Take some clues from the painting of Mrs Ramsay drawn by Lily Briscoe and the article by Andre Viola and Glenn Pedersen. Can we read Mrs. R in context of the idea of Ideal Indian Woman - Karyeshu dasi, Karaneshu manthri; Bhojeshu mata, Shayaneshu rambha; Kshamayeshu dharithri, Roopeshu lakshmi; Satkarma yukta, Kuladharma pathni. )
  3. Considering symbolically, does the Lighthouse stand for Mrs. Ramsay or the narrator (Virginia Woolf herself who is categorically represented by Lily)? (Key: Take help from the presentation on Symbolism to connect Mrs. Caroline Ramsay with Lighthouse. Secondly, the narrator / author cannot fully disappear from the novel and thus the stoicism of Lily to paint and thus prove that she can paint, is symbolically presented in stoicism of Lighthouse. Read 'lighthouse' symbol from presentation slide with this insight to connect lighthouse with the narrator. Give your concluding remarks in the comment below in this blog )
  4. In the article by Joseph Blotner, two myths are patterned together. Name the myths? How they are zeroed down to the symbols of 'Window' and 'Lighthouse'? How does the male phallic symbol represent feminine Mrs. Ramsay? (Key: The strokes of light-beams. . . )
  5. What do you understand by the German term 'Künstlerroman'? How can you justify that 'To The Lighthouse' is 'Künstlerroman' novel? (Key:
  6. "... the wages of obedience is death, and the daughter that reproduces mothering to perfection, including child-bearing, already has on her cheeks the pallor of death. One reminded here of various texts by Lucy Irigaray, in which she attacks mothers for being, however unwillingly, accomplices in the patriarchal system of oppression." (Viola). In light of this remark, explain briefly Lily's dilemma in 'To The Lighthouse'. 
  7. Movie Screening: Worksheet (Click here to open)
  8. You have compared the 'beginning' and the 'ending' of the novel and the film adaptation of the novel directed by Colin Gregg (you can see it again in the embedded video below this). Do you think that the novel is more poignant than the movie? If yes, do you ascribe the fact that the power of words is much greater than that of the screen / visuals?
  9. How do you interpret the last line of the novel (It was done; it was finished.
    Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.) with reference to the ending of the film (After the final stroke on the canvass with finishing touch, Lily walks inside the house. As she goes ante-chamber, the light and dark shade makes his face play hide-and-seek. She climbs stairs, puts her brush aside, walks through the dark and light to enter her room. Gently closes the door - speaks: "Closed doors, open windows" - lies on the bed and with some sort of satisfaction utters: "Dearest Briscoe, you are a fool".) 
  10. What does the catalogue named as 'Army and Navy' signify? What does cutting of 'Refrigerator'  signify?
  11. Why did Virginia give such prominence to the tale of the “Fisherman’s Wife”? In particular, why did she weave such a misogynist tale into the fabric of a book which so eloquently challenges received patriarchal notions about the roles and capabilities of women? 
  12. How is India represented in 'To The Lighthouse'? (Read this blog for passing reference) 
  13. Write summaries of these articles:
Watch the film 'To The Lighthouse', directed by Clin Greg, written by Hugh Stoddart, Virginia Woolf (novel). 

Watch biographical videos in three parts: 

The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf, directed by Eric Neal Young, 2002.

Presentations on Symbolism and Stream of Consciousness in 'To The Lighthouse'.

Stream of Consciousness in Virginia Woolf's 'To The Lighthouse' from Dilip Barad

Articles for further reading:

  • Mythic Patterns in to the Lighthouse. Author(s): Joseph L. BlotnerSource: PMLA, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Sep., 1956), pp. 547-562Published by: Modern Language AssociationStable URL:

  • Fluidity versus Muscularity: Lily's Dilemma in Woolf's "To the Lighthouse". Author(s): André ViolaSource: Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter, 2000-2001), pp. 271-289Published by: Indiana University PressStable URL:

  • Vision in to the Lighthouse. Author(s): Glenn PedersenSource: PMLA, Vol. 73, No. 5, Part 1 (Dec., 1958), pp. 585-600Published by: Modern Language AssociationStable URL:

  • Color in To the Lighthouse. Author(s): Jack F. StewartSource: Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Winter, 1985), pp. 438-458Published by: Hofstra UniversityStable URL:

  • Language, Subject, Self: Reading the Style of "To the Lighthouse". Author(s): Rebecca SaundersSource: NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Winter, 1993), pp. 192-213Published by: Duke University PressStable URL:

  • "These Emotions of the Body": Intercorporeal Narrative in To the Lighthouse. Author(s): Laura DoyleSource: Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 42-71Published by: Hofstra UniversityStable URL:
  • Tuesday 5 August 2014

    Short Learning Videos on Aristotle's 'Poetics' and Dryden's 'Of Dramatic Poesy'

    Under the project of eContent development, we prepared some Short Learning Videos. On this blog you will find video playlists on Aristotle's 'Poetics' and John Dryden's 'Of Dramatic Poesy'.

    Thursday 24 July 2014

    Quiz as an Effecting Teaching, Learning and Assessment Tool

    As necessary as ongoing assessment is for both teachers and students, many teachers complain that constant testing stifles their creativity and destroys student interest, at a time when motivation is mandatory for the current crop of media-saturated students. So, how can teachers assess student learning and evaluate the quality of their own teaching, without losing the interest of their students?[1] (Romo).

    It is not a question without an answer. The answer is plain, simple and straightforward. Use Quiz!

    It helps to ensure that students understand what you are teaching and -- when they don’t -- to understand where your teaching has missed the mark. (Romo).
    Moreover, it helps students to check their progress and assess their need to pay attention in classroom discussions.

    Here are some interesting outcome of our experiment of ‘Using Quiz for Teaching’:

    ·        Students identified and rated following benefits of using Quiz in teaching:
    o   It helps to do follow-up reading, everyday, after face-2-face classroom discussion
    o   It helps in increased concentration in classroom interaction
    o   It improves reading habits as they read with specific purpose to find specific information.
    o   It cultivates the habit of taking running notes while the face-2-face classroom interaction is going on.

    As students voted for Unit-End-Quiz, we have put it in practice rather than daily or weekly quizzes

    It is observed that ‘this approach encourages collaborative learning and creates a sense of community among the students. It also gets students coming to class prepared, and I think it makes the quizzes a more positive and useful learning experience’[2]. (Deterding)

    Here are the links to visit the quiz pages:

    Works Cited:

    Deterding, Audrey. A New Kind of “Space” for Quizzes. 26 Jan 2012. 24 July 2014 <>.

    Romo, Sandra. Using Quizzes to Measure Teaching Effectiveness: How Do You Measure Up? 8 Aug 2010. 24 July 2014 <>.

    [1] See more at:[2] Reprinted from Deterding, A. (2010) A New Kind of “Space” for Quizzes. The Teaching Professor, 24 (9), 6. - See more at: