Article ID: CBB113300543

Milton's Plant Eyes: Minimal Cognition, Similitude, and Sexuality in the Garden (2020)


This essay turns to minimal cognition, a theoretical extension of embodied cognition, to argue for plant sentience in John Milton's Paradise Lost. Milton imagines plants as minimally cognitive beings within an affective ecosystem, where they readily enter into the epic poem's complex circuits of desire with appetites of their own. Specifically, the essay claims that botanical cognition arises at the convergence of two seventeenth-century philosophical systems: the first, Milton's materialist monism, and the second, Paracelsian medicine, which avers a plant's therapeutic effect on a human body part sharing morphological resemblance. The essay concludes that Milton's eroticization of similitude enables a new sensus communis where cognition is subtler and where nonhuman desire engenders alternate forms of ecologic communality.

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Authors & Contributors
Samson, Alexander
Duran, Angelica
McColley, Diane Kelsey
Munroe, Jennifer
Riddle, John M.
Hou, Shen
Renaissance Studies
Victorian Literature and Culture
Gastronomica: The Journal of Culinary History
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Duquesne University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Pittsburgh Press
Cambridge University Press
University of Virginia Press
Science and literature
Poetry and poetics
Science and art
Milton, John
Shakespeare, William
Marvell, Andrew
Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle
Conway, Anne
Darwin, Erasmus
Time Periods
17th century
19th century
16th century
18th century
Great Britain
United States
Java (Indonesia)

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