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In his classic study, "The Dialectics of Creation," Michael Lieb foregrounds the myriad ways in which Milton uses scatology throughout "Paradise Lost" to describe the depravity of the devil. But Satan is not the only character in the epic to be associated with excretion. Milton's angels and Milton's God are also implicated in the operations of the lower bodily stratum. In these instances, however, allusions to the evacuative functions attest to an exalted divinity rather than a disgusting diabolism. Evacuation in "Paradise Lost" is thus a highly complex signifier. Not simply a pejorative pointing inevitably at a damnable degradation, scatology can also signal a sublime goodness. This essay draws upon humoral theory and socio-cultural studies of manners to both emphasize and account for the richly multivalent meaning of evacuation in Milton's epic.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in English Literary Renaissance, volume 37, in 2007 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.2007.00110.x.

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