Tanner uses Kierkegaard's thought, particularly his theory of anxiety, to enrich and enliven a bold new reading of Milton's Paradise Lost. He argues that for Milton and Kierkegaard, the path to sin and to salvation lies through anxiety, that both the poet and the philosopher include
anxiety--along with pain, suffering, and paradox--within the compass of paradise. The first half of the work explores anxiety in Eden before the Fall, providing fresh perspectives on such issues as free will, the problem of a fall before the Fall, original sin, the etiology of evil, and prelapsarian
knowledge. The second half examines anxiety after the Fall, offering original insights into such issues as the demonic personality, remorse, despair, and faith. Taken as a whole, Tanner's study provides a coherent new existentialist reading of Paradise Lost. Further, though intended primarily as a
work of literary criticism, the book touches on matters of broad philosophical, theological, and simply human interest--such as the nature of freedom, knowledge, sin, the self, and salvation.