University of Sussex
Gill, Laura Fox.pdf (4.2 MB)
Download file

Peripheral vision: the Miltonic in Victorian painting, poetry, and prose, 1825–1901

Download (4.2 MB)
posted on 2023-06-09, 09:40 authored by Laura Gill
This thesis explores the influence of John Milton on the edges of Victorian culture, addressing temporal, geographical, bodily, and sexual thresholds in Victorian poetry, painting, and prose. Where previous studies of Milton’s Victorian influence have focused on the poetic legacy of Paradise Lost, this project identifies traces of Miltonic concepts across aesthetic borders, analysing an interdisciplinary cultural sample in order to state anew Milton’s significance in the period between British Romanticism and early twentieth-century critical debates about the value of Paradise Lost. The project is divided into four chapters. The first explores apocalyptic images and texts from the 1820s—Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) and the paintings of John Martin—in relation to Miltonic aetiology and eschatology. These texts offer a complex re-thinking of the relation between personal loss and universal catastrophe, which draws on and positions itself against prophecy and apocalypse in Paradise Lost. In the second chapter I address conceptual connections that cross boundaries of medium and nationality, identifying the presence of a Miltonic notion of powerful passivity in the writing and marginalia of Herman Melville and the paintings and anecdotal appendages of J. M. W. Turner. In the third chapter I consider Milton’s importance for A. C. Swinburne’s poetic presentation of peripheral sexualities, identifying in Milton’s poetry a pervasive metaphysics of bodily ‘melting’ or ‘cleaving’ which is essential to Swinburne’s poetic project. The final chapter analyses the presence of the Miltonic in the fiction of Thomas Hardy, whose repeated readings of Milton contributed to both establishing his poetic vocabulary, and prompting a career-long engagement with Miltonic ideas. The thesis refocuses attention on peripheral elements of the work of these writers and artists to re-articulate Milton’s importance for the Victorians, whilst bringing together models of influence which show the Victorian Milton to be at once liminal and galvanising.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • English Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected