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“Other Air”: Boyle’s Spring, Milton’s Fall, and the Making of Literary Atmosphere

“Other Air”: Boyle’s Spring, Milton’s Fall, and the Making of Literary Atmosphere

Chapter:
(p.36) 2 “Other Air”: Boyle’s Spring, Milton’s Fall, and the Making of Literary Atmosphere
Source:
Air’s Appearance
Author(s):
Jayne Elizabeth Lewis
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226476711.003.0003

This chapter examines the works of Robert Boyle and John Milton in an exploration of the definition of literary atmosphere. A closer study of Paradise Lost reveals that Adam and Eve’s loss of Eden also resulted in a loss of “pure” air. Satan is portrayed as having experienced Eve’s “air” in an atmospheric sense, and Milton invokes this experience of air repeatedly—which in the end creates both an obstruction and a condition of experience. In effect, Milton’s work and “air” are the result of an age of literary experiment that would cohere with a larger body of new experiments in natural philosophy. In the case of Boyle, his purpose was to show that matter was all there was to it, endowing air with physical attributes of weight through a visualizing machine: the air pump. The chapter explores, then, how Milton and Boyle influenced the discussion that brought forth the making of literary atmosphere.

Keywords:   literary atmosphere, Robert Boyle, John Milton, Paradise Lost, literary experiment, natural philosophy, air pump

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