[Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost

Gregory Machacek Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu
Wed Apr 15 11:12:47 EDT 2009


I'll put my point more pointedly, then.

Theoretically:  at what altitude does Parnassus plateau?   If judgment
between Milton and Steele is possible, why isn't judgment between Milton
and Shakespeare?

Miltonically:  Isn't Paradise Lost precisely about making very fine
distinctions between competing goods, about discriminating between good (or
seeming good) and the best?  Aren't we being non-Miltonic in the extreme to
decline to hone our evaluative tools to a fineness that will allow us to
make such judgments.

I'm responding to the *tone* of many of the comments I cited, the jocular
and easy presupposition that evaluation has no part in the enterprise of
literary criticism, is essentially impossible--

reveals more about the critic than the work.

Does it say more about me than about Paradise Lost that I judge Paradise
Lost the best work of literature in English?  No doubt it does.  To adapt
Jonson:  Judge that I may know thee.  Or decline to judge and I'll know
that about you.

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College


milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote on 04/15/2009 09:48:19 AM:

> [image removed]
>
> Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
>
> James Rovira
>
> to:
>
> John Milton Discussion List
>
> 04/15/2009 09:52 AM
>
> Sent by:
>
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
>
> Please respond to John Milton Discussion List
>
> In response to Professor Machacek's post, if we were talking about a
> comparison between Milton and Danielle Steele then conceptions of
> literary merit and perhaps even greatness might be meaningful.  But if
> we're talking about a comparison between Milton and Shakespeare I
> think we're asking for more finely honed evaluative tools than are
> humanly possible.  A comparison on this level is meaningless, largely
> aggrandizes the critic far beyond his/her merit, and in the end
> teaches us little about the literature and a great deal about the
> critic -- which is still valuable knowledge, so long as we know that's
> what we're getting.
>
> Jim R
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