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Eve’s Food Preparation: Art and Experience in Eden

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The arts of the first couple before the Fall have beenextensively written on. It seems that most critics view prelapsarian artas congruous and natural to Eden, as evidence of prelapsarian splendor.Ann Torday Gulden states that art in Eden is socially neutral: “Surelyart is innocuous [in Eden], an integral part of paradisal bliss” (18).Indeed, Eve’s artistic activity makes Eden seem all the more delightfulto the reader. However, with a careful examination of how Eve’s artis perceived by the poem’s male characters, it becomes evident thatEve’s aesthetics do not quite fit. It is tempting for the reader, wholives in a “fallen” world, so unequivocally in favor of artistic culture,to praise Eden for examples of cultural activity within it. However,just about every example of Eve’s artistic activity is characterized by analoofness from divine discourse. The male authoritative characters ofParadise Lost primarily ignore Eve’s examples of talented artistry, givingneither praise nor disapproval. But while the lack of recognition speaksvolumes about her low status, it allows her an expansive autonomy fromthe divinely recognized modes of Edenic worship and devotion whichserve to revere God. If the authoritative male characters regard hercreativity as inconsequential, then there is almost no limit to the degreeof autonomous creativity she can have within that localized sphere ofartistry; no one is watching her or correcting her. The way in whichEve prepares food for the dinner guest, the angel Raphael, is a primeillustration of both Eve’s removal from the divine discourse and herexpansion of a cultural, creative realm in which she can act, rather thanfollow.

The first thing to recognize about the scene of Raphael’s arrivalto instruct Adam and Eve is that Eve is excluded from proximity to thedivine by Adam. To some degree, Adam actually forces her removal.The first one to see Raphael coming is Adam, of course. He says:

Haste hither, Eve, and, worth thy sight, beholdEastward among the trees what glorious shapeComes this way moving; seems another mornRisen on mid-noon. Some great behest from HeavenTo us perhaps he brings, and will vouchsafeThis day to be our guest. But go with speed,And what thy stores contain bring forth, and pourAbundance fit to honour and receiveOur heavenly stranger…(5.308)

Adam’s language is unquestioning. It is clear that he knows a guestfrom Heaven is on his way. The speed with which he recognizes thatthe thing on the horizon is from Heaven shows that he has an intuitive

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