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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Dr Mandy Green

Green, Mandy (2014). 'Joy and Harmles Pastime': Milton and the Ovidian Arts of Leisure. In A handbook to the reception of Ovid. Miller, John F. & Newlands, Carole E. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. 324-338.

Author(s) from Durham


Milton's reputation as a workaholic makes him an unlikely champion in the rehabilitation of otium, and yet, in his hands, not only does otium shed its pejorative associations, but it also becomes an essential phase in the creative process. For Milton, poetry was at once a serious pursuit and a form of recreation, and this doubleness is bound up with his response to Ovid, who remained the most powerful classical presence in his poetry from the youthful Latin elegies to Paradise Lost.

Like Pomona, Ovid's hard‐working gardener, Eve is reproved for too exclusive a preoccupation with her garden at the expense of human love. In Eve's case this leads directly to her encountering Satan alone. In representing Satan's assault on Eden and on Eve, Milton plays upon and yet subverts the reader's expectations, which have been programmed by the Ovidian mythic paradigm in which the violation of a virginal landscape is deployed to suggest the rape of a helpless female victim.

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