Divided Labors: Work, Nature, and the Utopian Impulse in John Milton's Paradise Lost.
Utopia has often been defined as an imaginary, this-worldly, rational ideal distinct from older, mythic, prepolitical forms of social ideality such as Paradise or the Golden Age. Milton's Paradise Lost complicates this opposition and departs from exegetical tradition, introducing temporality, materiality, and social organization into the Genesis story. The chaotic vitality of nature in Milton's paradise makes Adam and Eve's labor meaningful and necessary, and the preservation of the Edenic state is predicated upon the control of excess and a rational division of work and play. Milton's paradise is not, therefore, simply a state of nature, a presocial or prepolitical condition; it is the seed-form of a larger social order that already contains within itself the problem of the metabolism of nature and society. If paradise and utopia form an opposition, this opposition is internal to Paradise Lost.