[Milton-L] Milton Help

John Geraghty johnegeraghty at hotmail.com
Wed Feb 4 14:21:24 EST 2004

This review of Werman's book should be useful to you: http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m0411/n1_v47/21042650/p1/article.jhtml 

A snippet from the review:

As Werman announces in her introduction, Milton and Midrash is informed by two questions: first, "is there any evidence for the poet's knowledge of midrashic works in the original languages; and second, how much and what kind of midrashic material does Paradise Lost contain?" (7). To account for her answer to the first question (that there is in fact an overwhelming presence of Jewish exegetical literature in Paradise Lost), Werman finds no reason to turn Milton into a rabbinic scholar, a notion which she finds "unwarranted," even "preposterous" (42). Against the claims of George Fletcher's [Actually Harris Francis Fletcher...] once authoritative Milton's Rabbinic Readings (1930) which, according to Werman, attributes to Milton a "profound knowledge of Hebraica without producing evidence for it" (5), Werman finds no compelling proof that Milton approached rabbinic sources in their original language. Indeed in the book's second chapter, Werman argues compellingly that Milton's often haphazard and inaccurate use of rabbinic materials in his prose writings demonstrates that he most likely "derived his midrashic material by way of casual gleanings from secondary works in translation rather than from a deep study of the original sources" (40).

But given the "smoking-gun" of midrashic material in the epic, there still remains the problem - if Milton was not an Hebraist - of finding the source. And indeed the most striking and innovative move of Werman's work is the identification of a likely primary source of Milton's rabbinic materials: the eighth-century Palestinian midrash, the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, also known as Baralta de-Rabbi Eliezer or Haggadah de Rabbi Eliezer. Composed primarily of Palestinian materials (the Jerusalem Talmud, the Aramaic paraphrases of the Bible known as Targumim, and Midrashim written in Palestine), the Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer not only has a notable pedigree within later rabbinic commentators (it is quoted by, among others, Rambam and Rashi), it has the additional advantage, for the purposes of Werman's argument, of having been translated into Latin by William Vorstius in 1644. Two years Milton's junior, William Vorstius, the son of the influential Arminian theologian Conrad Vorstius, published his translation of the Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer with over one hundred pages of Animadversions (which together were published in the same volume with David Gans's Germen Davidis and Rambam's Letter to Yemen). Vorstius, who was himself deeply steeped in eighteen different tractates in the Mishnah and the Babylonian Talmud), provided Milton, Werman argues, with the compendium of midrashic sources that were to make their way into Paradise Lost.(6)

The article also mentions Rosenblatt's work and both Rosenblatt's book and Werman's were available for < 10.00 from scholar's bookshelf clearance section. (see www.scholarsbookshelf.com. I haven't been able to access the site today so I'm not sure if they are still available. 

Hope this helps -John

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jeffrey Shoulson 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Cc: milton-l at koko.richmond.edu 
  Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 6:52 AM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton Help

  Another book that has yet to be mentioned and is worth a look is Golda Werman's Milton and Midrash (1995, I think).
  Samuel Stollman published a series of articles on Milton and the Rabbinical tradition, most of them in Milton Studies.
  Good luck on your thesis.
  Jeffrey Shoulson

  On Tuesday, February 3, 2004, at 03:18 PM, jwnn4607 at aol.com wrote:

    I am doing an undergraduate thesis concerning Milton and the Rabbinical tradition (with the primary text being Paradise Lost),and would greatly appreciate if anyone could suggest some books, articles, etc. that would help me. Thank you very much.

    Nita Naim
    Milton-L mailing list
    Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu

  Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Ph.D.
  Associate Professor, Department of English
  Director, Program in Judaic Studies
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