David Goldstein ~ York University
Manuring the World: Satan and the Ends of Paradise Lost

Critics have long noted that Paradise Lost employs digestive rhetoric in a variety of ways, especially to describe Satan, Hell, and Chaos in the first two books of the poem. Yet the question remains how Satan -- and more broadly, evil -- is to be viewed within the poem's broader digestive framework. Satan's full digestive role within the poem, I will argue, is more paradoxical. Rather than becoming locked in a cycle of devourment as Michael Lieb has observed, or banished to the poetic economy's outer limits as Denise Gigante has argued, Satan moves throughout the book into a position of centrality from both the narrative and theological perspectives of Paradise Lost. Indeed, Satan's closest analogue in the poem is the forbidden fruit itself--easy to digest, difficult to expel, both vanishing from the narrative in Book 10. This is not because either has been banished, but because both have been absorbed. If Satan's narrative journey is one of serial expulsion, his progression through the poem's infrastructure is marked by increasing incorporation into its central thematic concerns. He begins the poem a character, but he ends it a principle. According to the logic of concoction, Satan, sin, and the forbidden fruit have been turned into metaphorical manure by the poem's end. By the same token, one of the poem's ends is to demonstrate how Satan became absorbed into the world, and to suggest that the earth will only be purified again only through what the morality play Mankind terms the "blissyde lavatorye" of Christ.