That’s all. End of story. Today started off with a horribly embarrassing incident. If only I could wipe it from my memory, I would be a much happier person. Seriously. It’s “I want to run away and change my name” bad. Ugh.
Once again, I have been extremely absent from blogging. And, once again, it was not my intention for that to happen. Many things have been going on in my life, though, so I think I have some excuses.
First of all, I graduated from university! I can’t even begin to describe the sense of accomplishment I feel to have been granted that honor and privilege. My diploma is currently framed and hanging in a place of pride over my mantle.
Second of all, I got into graduate school! It was a major relief to know where I would be going and what I would be doing for the next few years of my life. I am at the same university where I attended undergrad, and I am working with the mentor who inspired me and served as my mentor on my Honors thesis. I feel so blessed to be in such a highly esteemed program with so many accomplished professors and colleagues.
In other news, this summer has been the summer of weddings. My best friend since 2nd grade got married on June 1, and one of my other best friends since 2nd grade got married on July 12. I am so extremely happy for both of them, but it has been a whirlwind experience! It makes a person realize how old you’re getting when people your age start getting married.
Anyway, those are the highlights of my summer so far. I’m already busy with class and practicum again, but I’ll try to post somewhat more frequently in the future.
On July 12, one of my best friends from childhood married his college sweetheart. In the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus at Notre Dame University. The basilica and the ceremony were absolutely gorgeous. I’m so happy for the wonderful couple!
At the reception, my friend the groom danced a mother-son dance to “Beautiful Boy” with his wonderful mom, a woman who has been a huge influence on my life as well and who has been battling with MS for the last 15 or so years of her life. She was able to dance with her son without her cane. There was not one dry eye at that reception. And, I can admit, I was crying so embarrassingly hard myself. It was such a beautiful moment and I was so glad that she was able to share it with her son on his wedding day.
My family and I also got to tour Notre Dame’s campus. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was also an opportunity to take pictures of things related to the movie “Rudy.”
All the suggestions in the last blog can help you alleviate S.A.D. symptoms this season. When these tips are maintained as a lifestyle change year-round, they can also help prevent or lessen S.A.D. symptoms for future winters. Another successful preventative tool is called Light Therapy, which mimics exposure to sunlight.
Light Therapy should be undertaken only with a health care provider’s permission and under his or her instruction. You will need a special lamp with a 10,000 lux bulb in order to mimic sunlight’s properties. It is recommended that you begin Light Therapy before symptoms of S.A.D. start, so generally late fall or early winter are the best times to begin. You need to sit in front of the light for at least 30 minutes every day in order to get the best results. Typically, you want to sit a few feet away from the light and keep your eyes open (but do not look directly into the light) for those 30 minutes. It is also recommended that these sessions take place in the morning to mimic the sunrise. After 3 – 4 weeks, S.A.D. symptoms should improve if Light Therapy is going to be effective for you.
Light Therapy is not a good therapy for everyone, however. First of all, a check-up with your eye doctor is recommended before beginning treatment. If you are on medications that cause sensitivity to light, you should not use Light Therapy. Check the warnings on your medications or speak to your pharmacist or psychiatrist about your medications to see if Light Therapy is safe for you before you begin. If you have Bipolar Disorder, Light Therapy may trigger mania, so speak to your health care professionals before beginning Light Therapy. The most common side effects of Light Therapy are headache and eye strain.
If you have already been diagnosed with S.A.D., there are things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms!
- ANTIDEPRESSANT MEDICATION may be prescribed by your physician, so it is important to stick to your medication regimen and manage side effects with your physician. However,medication is only ONE piece of the treatment process!
- Getting enough SLEEP is important, but you want to be careful not to get too much sleep. Create a schedule for your day and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
- EXERCISE is an important component of better mental health. Experts suggest that walking 30-45 minutes a day (or every other day) is sufficient to reduce levels of anxiety and depression. Other forms of exercise are also always welcome, of course.
- ENJOYABLE ACTIVITIES. In the midst of S.A.D., it can be difficult to find things you enjoy doing and have the energy to do. If you make the effort to find a pleasant hobby/activity despite feeling unable to do so, it will help boost your mood over time.
- THERAPY. Therapy with a psychologist is always an option for those with S.A.D., and has been proven to effective in decreasing the symptoms of depression for those with S.A.D.
- EAT HEALTHY. Improving one’s diet can also decrease levels of depression. Stay away from alcohol. Add OMEGA-3 (found in fish oil, salmon, canola oil, soybeans, etc.) to your diet to help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Also, increase your intake of VITAMIN B-3 (found in chicken, dried peas and beans, whole grains, etc.) to decrease S.A.D. symptoms.
- SOCIALIZE. For those with S.A.D., socializing can seem overwhelming. Get a good group of people that you trust and enjoy spending time with to engage in activities together and talk. Spend time with people who are encouraging and loving.
- SUNSHINE. Though sunshine is often scarce in the winter, get as much sunlight as possible. This will decrease your S.A.D. symptoms, as well. When natural sunlight is not available, light therapy has also been shown to be successful. (More on light therapy in the next blog!)
“The words of a dead man / Are modified in the guts of the living.” – W.H. Auden
This particular line of Auden’s poetry can be found in his poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats.” These lines are so important to me because they are so short but still manage to be so powerful, which is, I suppose, the beauty of poetry. Just think about it. The written word itself does nothing; it is physically incapable of performing any task. However, the lives of individuals and the course of world history are influenced and changed through the power of the written word. The words themselves take no action, but they inspire action; they make no changes, but they inspire change; they posses no power apart from the power that the reader grants them.
The words of dead men live on and change the lives of people living generations later. Sometimes the words even take on a life and a meaning apart from what the author originally intended. This is the beauty, and sometimes the danger, of the written word. It can be used for good or bad, to encourage good deeds or justify bad ones, to foster virtue or vice. The responsibility of good decision-making lies with the reader. Every time we read a poem or book or play that touches our hearts, we don’t just absorb that information. We retain it. We modify it. We are changed by it. Auden goes so far as to say that readers modify these words in our guts. To me, that is a very vivid depiction of the degree of internalization that occurs when I read a work that inspires me. It alters me from my core. Sometimes a work shakes me. Sometimes it leads me to form new opinions or enforces my existing ones. Sometimes it just provides me with a new perspective on an issue. Sometimes it inspires change.
Men die, but their words and ideas live on in the guts, the minds, the hearts, and the souls of their readers. These words and ideas exist in a state of preservation and evolution, a sort of oxymoron. It’s a beautiful thing. I encourage you to not only witness it, but also participate in it. Be a modifier and an innovator.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a type of depression that generally occurs during the winter months and is more common in locations with longer winter nights and less sunlight. Even though Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year on Groundhog Day, spring cannot come soon enough for many of us! How do I know if I might have S.A.D.? What are some ways to alleviate S.A.D. symptoms until spring comes? Can preventative measures be taken so that next winter won’t seem so long and dreary? Great questions! They’ll be addressed in the next few blogs.
The symptoms of S.A.D. are very similar to those of non-seasonal depression. Feelings of hopelessness, unhappiness, and irritability are common along with an increased appetite, increased tiredness, and lack of interest in social activities or work. Generally, you will notice these symptoms building up through the autumn and winter and dissipating in the spring and summer if you have S.A.D. There is no test to identify S.A.D., but it can be diagnosed by a physician on the basis of symptoms and case history. If you believe that you or someone you know is possibly experiencing S.A.D., contact a physician and schedule an appointment for an evaluation of symptoms and case history.
First of all, I apologize for my absence AND not completing the 30 Day Avengers Challenge. I just CANNOT complete anything on the internet because I’m not dedicated enough, I suppose. Maybe I will improve that…
Secondly, congratulations to Robert Griffin III on the NFL Rookie of the Year award! We’re all so proud of him!
Thirdly, I’m going to try to blog more about important things and creative things. That’s my goal. Will it be completed? I don’t know. But I want to make this blog a stimulating place for myself and any other who may be interested.
Lastly, I thank all of you who actually visit my blog. I know it’s not the best, but I’m aiming to improve that.
Title from the song created to promote Eric Berry’s candidacy for the Heisman a few years ago lol
In order to honor the one year anniversary of Baylor University’s own QB, Robert Griffin III, winning the Heisman, have a picture of me posing with his Heisman.
I also want to be gracious and say congrats to Texas A&M’s QB for winning this year. Even though I hate A&M with a fiery passion, I must say that I do have some friends who go/have gone there and Johnny is talented.
Here is my British Literature paper for your viewing pleasure. If you care. Which you probably don’t. And that’s more than ok.
The Role of Christianity, Heroism, and Fate in Beowulf and Paradise Lost
The epic poem Beowulf, authored by an anonymous person, survives as the oldest epic in the Anglo-Saxon tradition and serves as an important influence for later literature. Beowulf, the epic hero, possesses the traits required of all heroes in the epic tradition: courage, wisdom, strength, honor, honesty, good oration, and strong leadership. Beowulf also falls victim to the same enemy of other tragic heroes – fate, or wyrd in the Anglo-Saxon language. By contrast, John Milton’s epic tragedy Paradise Lost presents a different view of heroism and epic. Milton’s tragic hero, be he Satan or Adam, does not possess all the typical qualities of an epic hero, nor does he share the typical downfall of an epic hero. Instead, Milton’s heroes fail in their execution of their own free will, not as a result of fate. As a result, the Christianity in both Beowulf and Paradise Lost appear to differ greatly from one another in their conceptualization of God and man, fate and free will, and true heroism. How and why do they differ, and can these differences be reconciled within the framework of orthodox Christianity?
Beowulf, the hero of the poem Beowulf, possesses many qualities typical of the traditional epic hero. The Geatish Beowulf leads his warriors to King Hrothgar’s realm of the Danes in order to save the land from the monstrous Grendel. In this instance, Beowulf demonstrates his heroism by traveling to a foreign land in order to defeat a monster attacking a foreign people. He illustrates his courage and willingness to do battle by volunteering for a conflict not his own. Because Beowulf’s men choose to follow him into battle in this foreign land, his heroic trait of good leadership is also exemplified. Furthermore, Beowulf already has a reputation as a fearsome warrior, which is necessary for an epic hero. He demonstrates this supremacy in his three confrontations against Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. Beowulf characterizes his skills thusly:
I have suffered extremes
and avenged the Geats (their enemies brought it
upon themselves; I devastated them) (422-424).
Beowulf also exemplifies his heroic qualities in his sense of fair play and honor. Because Grendel uses no weapons in combat, Beowulf chooses not to use any either, thus establishing an equal playing field in a hand-to-hand combat situation. In his recitation of his swimming episode with Breca, Beowulf proves to Unferth and the other Danes that he is a physically strong man capable of swimming in heavy armor for multiple days and nights while slaying the sea creatures attempting to kill him (530-581). This incident also epitomizes Beowulf’s skill as a strong orator – another important epic quality. Beowulf is also a devout man who worships the Christian God. Before his confrontation with Grendel, Beowulf declares:
[U]narmed [Grendel] shall face me
if face me he dares. And may the Divine Lord
in His wisdom grant the glory of victory
to whichever side He sees fit (684-687).
Beowulf shares the aforementioned epic qualities with epic ancient Greek and Roman heroes such as Odysseus and Aeneas. Greek and Roman heroes worshipped a pantheon of pagan gods; Beowulf, in contrast, is monotheistic and worships the Christian God. Notably, however, Beowulf retains influences from such pagan thought, exemplified by the emphasis on the epic hero, who is characterized largely by pride or confidence. This notion contrasts with the Christian ideals of humility and servitude. Pagan influences also remain evident in the emphasis placed on the importance of heroic deeds in order to avoid punishment in the afterlife and the lack of a clear conceptualization of a heaven or place of reward for the honorable to go after death. In fact, Beowulf himself is not guaranteed a place in a “heaven” (if it exists):
Famous for his deeds
a warrior may be, but it remains a mystery
where his life will end, when he may no longer
dwell in the mead-hall among his own.
So it was with Beowulf, when he faced the cruelty
and cunning of the mound-guard. He himself was ignorant
of how his departure from the world would happen (3062-3068).
On the contrary, a hell or place of punishment does exist, and it claims Grendel’s “heathen soul” (851). Taken all together, these factors imply the author or transcriber of Beowulf possessed a rudimentary knowledge of Christianity, most likely of the Old Testament alone. In addition, the pagan influences in Beowulf suggest that some pagan ideology may have been maintained and colored the author’s understanding and interpretation of Christianity.
Similarly to other epic heroes, Beowulf’s life is strongly influenced and controlled by fate, which is referenced numerous times throughout the epic. In fact, in traditional pagan epics, the events that color the lives of the heroes or lead to their downfalls are often portrayed as controlled or manipulated by the gods or the Fates. In essence, the true tragedy in these epics results from the epic hero’s lack of control over an event in his life or his ultimate demise. Following in this tradition, the conceptualization of death and fate in Beowulf is remarkably complex. Early in the epic, Beowulf, while recounting his swimming episode to Unferth, states, “Often, for undaunted courage, / fate spares the man it has not already marked” (572-573). This sentiment is echoed later in the poem when the scop claims that the grace of God may spare a man unmarked by fate (2291-2293). However, the scop also states:
But death is not easily
escaped from by anyone:
all of us with souls, earth-dwellers
and children of men, must make our way
to a destination already ordained
where the body, after the banqueting,
sleeps on its deathbed (1001-1007).
Though Beowulf, through his own courage and the grace of God, managed to escape death in his earlier conflicts against Grendel and Grendel’s mother, he cannot escape his fate when he faces the dragon. According to William Cooke in his article, “Beowulf, like all heroes, had had to meet an unforeseen fate” (210).
By this point in the epic, Beowulf’s fate lies outside of his control and choosing. In his article, Andrew Galloway writes, “[The Old English formula for dying]’s linguistic conservatism supports and even epitomizes the view that heroic choices are few and often fatal …death is precisely what a hero does not choose, although he may choose honor, which may entail dying” (198). In other words, a hero’s ability to determine his own fate is limited insofar as he remains a hero dedicated to honor, glory, and bravery. Theoretically, Beowulf could avoid his fated death if he chose not to battle the dragon; however, in so choosing, Beowulf would also lose his heroic status. This paradox results in the epic and somewhat tragic conflict between fate and free will and virtue and vice in Beowulf.
As a result, Beowulf presents a complex view of fate and God’s sovereignty. Some passages in the epic suggest that the two oppose one another, while others imply that God controls fate. This conflict most likely results from the merging of the older pagan influences of the Anglo-Saxon culture with the newer Christian religion. As aforementioned, evidence in Beowulf suggests that the author was familiar with the Old Testament of the Bible, which emphasizes God’s sovereignty and control over humanity and earthly matters. Furthermore, many pagan religions emphasize the concept of fate. In conclusion, the author of Beowulf appears to approach his understanding of the Christian God and His sovereignty through his understanding of certain pagan concepts like fate and heroism.
John Milton, the author of the epic tragedy Paradise Lost, views the interaction of fate and free will differently than the author of Beowulf, which is indicative of the culture in which Milton lived and worked. As an English Christian, paganism affected Milton’s theology far less than the Christianity represented in Beowulf. Contrary to Beowulf’s emphasis upon fate, Milton emphasizes the importance of free will, which impacts the portrayal of the epic hero, particularly concerning his control over his own choices and downfall. By these means, Milton attempts to “justify the ways of God to men” in Paradise Lost (26).
Many debate whether Milton intended Satan or Adam to be the hero of Paradise Lost. Either character, however, differs from the traditional pagan conceptualization of an epic hero. Satan, though a charismatic leader and excellent orator, possesses no virtuous and traditionally heroic qualities like courage, honesty, strength, or wisdom. Arguably, Satan does possess strength, but it manifests in “the unconquerable will” or stubbornness (Milton 104). He chooses to harden his heart against God, rebel, and remain in a state of unrepentant rebellion. Satan declares:
Yet not for those,
Nor what the potent victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent or change (Milton 94-96).
In fact, these very acts demonstrate a deficit of wisdom on Satan’s part. As Adam instructs Eve later in the narrative:
Against his will he can receive no harm.
But God left the free will, for what obeys
Reason, is free, and reason he made right (Milton 350-352).
In Milton’s opinion, God created everything, including mankind’s capacity for reason and knowledge; therefore, obedience to God is the truest expression of reason. In his article, Anthony Low writes, “Freedom (we think) we easily understand; obedience is harder to accept. Moreover, what Milton advocates is not forced but ‘willing obedience’” (351). Unfortunately, the demons could not willingly obey God. According to the demon Mammon:
This must be our task
In Heav’n, this our delight; how wearisome
Eternity so spent in worship paid
To whom we hate (Milton 244-249).
Satan and the demons, however, share the fatal flaw of pride with many traditional epic heroes. It is Satan’s pride that brings about his rebellion against God and his refusal to repent, preferring “Hard liberty before the easy yoke” (Milton 256). This pride and the actions resulting from it branch directly from Satan’s own freedom to choose; he is not destined by God or by fate to fall into sin.
Adam as the tragic hero may also be examined in a similar light; Milton presents him in a manner more in keeping with a traditional epic hero. As the first man and a sinless man, Adam is superior to all human beings who follow him. Milton describes them as, “Two of far nobler shape erect and tall / Godlike erect” (288-289). As such, he possesses all the virtuous qualities of mankind with none of the vices. Adam’s fall, like Satan’s, comes about through no fault of God’s. God did not create Adam with a sinful nature, nor did He predestine Adam to rebel and fall into sin. On the contrary, Adam’s downfall was precipitated entirely by his own free will, his own choice to sin in order not to be separated from Eve. When Eve presents the forbidden fruit to Adam after she partakes of it, Adam replies:
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of nature draw me to my own,
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine;
Our state cannot be severed, we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself (Milton 955-959).
Because Adam did not trust in God’s provision for a new wife and was blinded by love for Eve, he chose to join Eve in sin and rebellion despite knowing the consequences.
Even Milton’s portrayal of Adam as the epic hero differs significantly from the ideal of a hero presented in Beowulf and other pagan epics. Traditional heroic qualities associated with warfare are not emphasized in Paradise Lost, particularly for Adam who never engages in physical battle. Unlike Beowulf, Adam is not presented as a brave warrior or even exceptionally physically strong. Furthermore, the typical heroic quality of pride is largely lacking in Adam. By contrast, in Paradise Lost, the Christian virtue of humility is more widely praised. This shift to respecting humility indicates the pervasiveness of Christianity in the culture and the move away from pagan ideology.
Paradise Lost also differs from Beowulf in its presentation of God. Though God is sovereign, He does not strictly control the fate of mankind; rather, He allows them to have free will. With this free will, Satan and the other demons begin to view God as a tyrant, though they acknowledge God will “of his kingdom lose no part / by our revolt” (Milton 325-326). In order to retaliate against God, the demons decide to corrupt God’s new creations: humanity (Milton 362-370). When Satan tempts Adam and Eve into using their free will unwisely, he assumes he has won a great victory. On the contrary, God in His sovereignty already has a plan in place for the salvation of humanity. As a result, God’s omniscience and omnipotence do not rely on His ability to control humanity’s decisions; instead, they rely on God’s foreknowledge of these actions and decisions.
Therefore, the Christianity in Paradise Lost is influenced by the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the theories of past and contemporary theologians. As a result, Milton’s Christian theology is more fully formed than the Christianity in Beowulf. Milton presents a clear conceptualization of Heaven and Hell, separated from one another and from Earth (1035-1055). Milton also adds a unique caveat to the location of Hell; Satan discovers “myself am Hell” as a consequence of his rebellion against God (75). As in Beowulf, God is described as omniscient. In his article, Benjamin Myers writes, “The grace of salvation is not an afterthought, but a gift of God which precedes even the need for salvation” (66). However, unlike in Beowulf, God does not control the actions of mankind in order to achieve some fated outcome. “According to Paradise Lost, human freedom operates independently of the divine will to so great an extent that the divine knowledge of the future cannot even be described as ‘immutable.’ God’s knowledge is subject to and influenced by the free actions of those creatures to whom he has granted freedom,” declares Myers (79). Furthermore, the Christianity in Milton’s work provides humanity with some base moral guidelines as well as the promise of salvation. In conclusion, Milton’s Paradise Lost provides a more complete, holistic Christianity than the Christianity in Beowulf.
Because Beowulf and Paradise Lost both contain Christian themes but present largely different views of Christianity, can the two works be reconciled within the realm of orthodox Christianity? Is the Christianity in Beowulf too “paganized” to be compatible with true Christianity? Though Beowulf is highly paganized, it can still be somewhat compatible with Milton’s depiction of Christianity when viewed in a certain manner. In essence, Beowulf’s Christianity does not contradict the Christianity in Paradise Lost; the Christianity in Beowulf merely presents an incomplete picture of Christianity.
As aforementioned, the theology in Beowulf presents an interesting amalgamation of pagan and Christian ideology. The reader, as a result, must learn to separate the influences from one another in order to achieve the clearest understanding of the work. Pagan influences are very clear in the depiction of the epic hero and strong warrior archetypes. However, there is also some basis in the Christian Old Testament to support the respect for those who are strong, bold warriors and leaders. Though the Jewish King David was the youngest of his brothers, God chose him to be a powerful warrior and strong king – qualities that were also respected in the pagan Anglo-Saxon society. Furthermore, pagan religions also emphasize the deities’ power over men and women. Individuals are subject to the will of the gods and fate. While this is certainly not a modern Christian idea, there is some evidence to support this type of thinking in the Old Testament, and the author of Beowulf may have seen this as an example of compatibility between the old paganism and the new Christianity. In the Old Testament, the Jewish tribes were for some time under a theocracy, a direct rule by God. As a result, it may have seemed to the author of Beowulf that God was directly controlling the lives of his people because of His direct action in their lives – an understandable conclusion from someone with a background in pagan ideology. In conclusion, when the reader can assess the influences of paganism and Old Testament Christianity in Beowulf, he or she is more able to view the Christianity presented in a more compatible way with the Christianity presented in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
While Beowulf presents a comparably incomplete view of Christianity, Milton’s Paradise Lost is characterized by a more complete understanding of Christian ideology. Christianity presents a type of hero different from the typical pagan hero and more in keeping with the example of the Christian New Testament’s Jesus Christ. Christ did not participate in physical conflict, was a humble servant, and was executed willingly despite his total innocence in life. These new qualities become the dominant characteristics of the heroic archetype in the Christian world. In addition, Christians viewed God as sovereign and powerful, but they also accepted the concept of humanity’s free will. Reading the Old Testament through this lens revealed that humanity always has the choice to obey or disobey God, even in the Old Testament theocracy. Admittedly, different Christian denominations varied on the emphasis they placed upon free will (then and now), but Milton was a staunch advocate of the importance of free will in Christianity. Milton believed humanity’s free will exempted God from blame for the existence of sin and evil – the idea around which he created Paradise Lost.
Taken together, Beowulf and Paradise Lost provide a fuller understanding of Christianity. By examining the development of Christianity from Beowulf to Paradise Lost, one sees the growth in size and cultural importance the religion experiences, as well as its effect on the cultures in which it exists. Christianity did not develop in a vacuum, and in some cases, was influenced by the pagan ideologies of recent converts. Beowulf serves as a wonderful example of this cultural transition from paganism to Christianity. Within this framework, the Christianity of Beowulf and Paradise Lost can be reconciled as orthodox Christianity despite their differences in epic heroism, the relationship between God and man, and fate and free will.
Cooke, William. “Who Cursed Whom, and When? The Cursing of the Hoard and Beowulf’s
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Galloway, Andrew. “Beowulf and the Varieties of Choice.” PMLA 105.2 Mar. (1990): 197-208. Web.
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Greenblatt, Stephen, et al, eds. Vol. A. Beowulf. 8th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
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Low, Anthony. “’Umpire Conscience’: Freedom, Obedience, and the Cartesian Flight from
Calvin in Paradise Lost.” The U. of North Carolina P. (1999): 348-65.
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Myers, Benjamin. “Predestination and Freedom in Milton’s Paradise Lost.” Scottish Journal of
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