In Her Shape How Lovely: The Habit of Virtue in Paradise Lost*

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Christian Leithart


The English poet John Milton wrote his epic poem Paradise Lost in part as a way to train his audience in virtue. Throughout the poem, virtue appears in many different contexts, and nearly always, it is portrayed as a habit, acquired over time through meditation on the word of God. Each character in Paradise Lost and in Milton's shorter epic, Paradise Regained, grows or decreases in virtue depending on how they respond to various temptations. By representing both good and evil as accurately as possible, Milton’s poetry serves as an opportunity for his audience to experience the same thing as his characters, and so trains them to live truly virtuous lives.

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Author Biography

Christian Leithart, Villanova University

Christian Leithart is a first year graduate student in the Department of English. After receiving his BA and MA from New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, in 2014, he worked for a video production company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he crouched spiderlike over a keyboard for eight hours every day, writing scripts for children’s online education. He currently works in the Web Services and Technology group at UNIT, where he crouches over a keyboard for eight hours, twice a week. He enjoys writing fiction. His research interests revolve around the work of the greatest poet in the English language, Edmund Spenser.