What Happened Last Night: Shameful Memories and Miltonic Nationhood
This chapter traces the connection between shame and memory in Paradise Lost and Milton’s political thought. Building on recent work in affect theory, Pivetti wagers that for Milton, shame “becomes a communal experience.” In Milton’s works, shame marks one’s entrance into time, which, through memory, also becomes an originary confrontation with difference. When they consume the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve enter time, and this entrance is marked by the introduction of shameful memories. In the final books of Paradise Lost, and his political tracts, Milton expounds on the importance of communal shame in fashioning national identity. Political and sexual shame intertwine to articulate a national identity structured by a narrative of difference, misogyny, and marriage.