chapter  16
12 Pages

“Th’Earth’s Great Altar”: Teaching Milton’s Spiritual Ecology

ByMary (Mimi) C. Fenton

Understanding Paradise Lost ecocritically requires understanding that, like many early modern Englishmen, Milton was likely not to see the changing land around him as separate from the God above or within him. Teaching Paradise Lost ecocritically requires showing twenty-first-century post-Industrial Age students how this seventeenth-century poet fuses the material with the spiritual because he perceives land as a metonym for God and humanity’s relationship with land as spiritually and morally bound. Reading backward into Milton’s cultural milieu elucidates his ecological value system, inspiring students to read his epic with a kaleidoscopic, polygonal perspective that reveals a natural world infused with spirituality. The natural and spiritual together define what it means to be human.