[Milton-L] death in Eden.

Beth Quitslund quitslun at ohio.edu
Tue Nov 16 11:45:19 EST 2004

By chance, this is something that I have just been dealing with in response 
to a question posed by my undergraduates in a Milton seminar: why do the 
*animals* end up red in tooth and claw if the *humans* sinned? (And that's 
leaving aside the paradox of the blameless-but-punished serpent.) If anyone 
has an explicit patristic answer to this, by the way, I would love to know. 
But in my dilatory hunt on the web for clues, I discovered that 
pre-lapsarian death is a raging controversy among literalist Christian 
interpreters. It mostly hinges, apparently, on the indisputable fact that 
there are a lot of animals which not only have teeth and claws useful only 
for aggressive purposes, but also digestive systems, etc., that require 
meat. The question, then, is whether God made them that way originally and 
let them starve until the fall, or whether they changed to fit the new 
ecology of sin. My favorite explanation of how such evolution would happen 
is that the atmosphere changed after the fall, so that more cosmic rays 
reached the earth and caused wide-spread genetic mutations.

Lest we think that Milton is irrelevant to contemporary concerns....


At 10:43 AM 11/16/2004 -0500, you wrote:
>Douglas, My instant response is the St. Luke's altar at Grace Church in 
>Chattanooga. On Wednesday, I stare at the 4 images of the Evangelists 
>inscribed on the altar. I wonder if Milton is setting up visual images in 
>the narrative - something greater than symbol. The idea of sacrifice and 
>foreshadowing that others hear opens up interpretations that are sound, 
>sound as a blind poet might see them. I have Frye's Milton's Imagery and 
>the Visual Arts in my lap as I write this response Is there an 
>iconographic altar at Christ College or in Italy that Milton remembers as 
>the animals may appear as emblems as well as creature characters in Paradise?
>The whole idea of death juxtaposed against the concrete poetic images 
>makes for a great tension. If you eat, you will die. But then how do you 
>know what Death is? There are no definitions yet or examples.
>Zap! There is the bell. Off to class.
>  You have a wonderful feast to prepare and serve as a writer. Have fun. 
> Kemmer Anderson
>At 05:39 PM 11/15/2004, you wrote:
>>I am a graduate student taking a Milton seminar.  Soon I must have a working
>>thesis statement to present to the class.  I could use some guidance in a
>>couple of areas.  I want to explore death in Eden.
>>I am working with four images, three subtle and one blatant.  The three 
>>images involve Satan:  "As when a prowling Wolf, / Whom hunger drives to seek
>>new haunt for prey" (IV 183,184).  "Sat like a Cormorant" (IV 196).  A
>>Cormorant eats dead things.  "A Lion now he stalks with fiery glare, / 
>>Then as
>>a Tiger, who by chance hat spi'd / In some Purlieu two gentle Fawns at 
>>play, /
>>Straight couches close, then rising changes oft / His couchant watch, as one
>>who chose his ground / Whence rushing he might surest seize them both / Gript
>>in each paw" (IV 402-408).  Satan wants to kill the deer but gets 
>>distracted by
>>Adam and Eve.
>>The blatant image is also from book four.  A lion has a kid in its
>>paws.  "Sporting the Lion ramp'd, and in his paw / Dandl'd the Kid" 
>>I checked the OED for definitions of the words out my (our) present usage and
>>it does indeed sound like the lion has killed a kid.
>>The problems that I am having are that I can't find scholarship on death in
>>Eden.  I know there is a debate of something like; did nature fall before 
>>Yet I can't find scholarship on the fall of nature.  Since Milton does have
>>some images of death in Eden I would like to explore possibly what that says
>>about the fall of nature.  Is death allowed in Eden for nature, without 
>>falling?  If that is the case then Milton sets Adam and Eve clearly apart 
>>nature.  Nature has death, yet Adam and Eve do not.  Plus the lions, 
>>tigers and
>>bears (oh my), don't think of Adam and Eve as food.
>>I am sure that I am not blazing a new trail.  There must be some articles at
>>least somewhat related to this idea.  But I am so frustrated with not being
>>able to find articles I'm thinking of scraping the idea.  Is a paper on this
>>idea feasible?  If so, are there some essays that I should read?
>>I appreciate any and all guidance.
>>Douglass Bourne
>>Graduate Assistant
>>Western Illinois University
>>Milton-L mailing list
>>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
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Beth Quitslund
Assistant Professor of English

Department of English
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701
phone: (740) 593-2829
FAX: (740) 593-2818

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