Trapped in Eden: Adam and Eve as Prisoners of God

By Alexandra Dimakos.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper focuses on the construction of Eden and the representation of Adam and Eve in John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. More specifically, I analyze the epic poem using Michel Foucault’s theories of surveillance, discipline and historical accounts of Renaissance prisons. These theories and historical references provide the framework for my main argument that Eden’s structure is similar to that of a prison and its inhabitants reflect prisoner-like qualities. In Milton’s poem, Eden is the focus of surveillance and discipline as God watches from above while Adam and Eve labor in the garden and eventually disobey his command. This position of surveillance is similar to Foucault’s interpretation of a panopticon. Foucault uses Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a panopticon to illustrate a prison structure that impresses upon its prisoners the awareness of continuous and invisible surveillance. Likewise, Eden’s structure and disciplinary tactics used on Adam and Eve are meant to instill in them a sense of obedience. However, they are not perfectly obedient. In the systems of surveillance – panopticon, Eden and prisons of the Renaissance — people do not always heed authority. Thus, there is punishment.

Keywords: Prisons, Eden, Surveillance, Discipline, Milton, Panopticon, Foucault

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.207-218. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 612.457KB).

Alexandra Dimakos

Lecturer, California State University, Northridge, North Hills, CA, USA

I am currently a lecturer at California State University, Northridge where I teach composition and business writing. I have a Master’s degree in English Literature from California State University, Northridge and also plan on pursuing a PhD in English Literature in the coming year. My interests in literature include the representation of authority, power and gender in Renaissance poetry, prose, art, culture and politics.

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