[Milton-L] Struggling with a paper

James Rovira jrovira at drew.edu
Sat Feb 5 15:48:36 EST 2005


Good lord, we are indeed in a sarcasm free zone here.  Did Paul hate 
women?  No.  Would Paul be considered a misogynist by contemporary 
feminist standards?  In the minds of most feminists I know, yes, but 
their definition of the word is scaled back from "hatred" to a number of 
lesser attitudes that still place women in an inferior status. 
 Insisting on a single definition of any word regardless of  how it's 
actually used is a bit wrong.  I think a fair reading of Paul would show 
him divided on the topic, as he describes men and women "in Christ" as 
unqualified equals but as quite the opposite "in Adam" and in the 
contemporary (for him) practice of the church -- which in some instances 
meant that women weren't even allowed to publicly speak (and there isn't 
much debate about that passage beyond questions concerning how widely 
this was practiced and immediate cultural context).  Such nuance is 
usually lost on most readers, of course, who for some reason need to 
think Paul (or Milton, or any other writer more than 200 years old) 
either hates women or was a proto-feminist, with nothing in between.  

Now all sarcasm aside, Jacob's post did deserve a longer answer than I 
gave it.  When I said that we'd need to ask God or the Devil for the 
answers to his questions, I was trying to point out these would be 
answers that the text couldn't possibly provide.  In other words,  he 
seemed to me to be asking, "What if the Milton's world (either inhabited 
or created) were different?" At the time I felt that there's seldom much 
use for asking that kind of a question.  Milton's world could have been 
different, but still is what it is, and we need to take it into account 
to understand his fiction.

But it occurred to me afterwards that there is a great deal of merit in 
asking questions like, "Why wasn't Adam tempted first?  How would Satan 
have gone about it?" While the answers themselves lie outside the text, 
the process of seeking answers (that Jacob began) does require us to 
look closely at the text, to learn something about Adam's nature and 
weaknesses, and Satan's methods.  So I think the questions are valuable 
as a way of getting us going, so long as we don't seriously attempt to 
answer them.  I think a serious attempt to answer such questions 
introduces too many variables.  That being said, even an examination of 
the variables would be worthwhile.

Jim Rovira    

Hugh Wilson wrote:

> The issue of whether or not Milton portrays
> Eve as really intrinsically more frail than Adam
> is an open question.  Some scholars, like John
> Ulreich, have credibly argued that Eve is heroic.
> In some significant respects, she seems morally
> superior to Adam.
>
> When Milton was three, in Salve Deus Rex
> Judaeorum [1611], Emilia Lanier had already
> argued that Adam was more culpable
> for the fall than Eve.
>
> Hugh Wilson
> hwilson at together.net
> (518) 562-8027
>
> P.S.  Also, as an aside, insofar as
> "misogyny" means the hate of women,
> Paul isn't "misogynist" at all.  The word
> is devalued by being over-used.  Jason
> in Euripides' Medea is expresses genuine
> misogynist sentiments when he wishes
> that women never existed, and that men
> could produce children some other way.
>
> Garden variety sexism or unconscious
> prejudice isn't misogyny anymore than
> the garden varieties of unconscious racism
> are tantamount to membership in the
> Aryan Nation.
>
> Given the questions about Paul's authorship
> of the most controversial epistles, and the
> is debate about what they really meant, it
> seems that we should be more circumspect.
>
>
> At 06:35 PM 2/3/2005, you wrote:
>
>> I think to answer your questions you'd have to ask either God or the 
>> Devil directly.  The best I can do is point to a textual tradition 
>> that Milton may have been following.  Undoubtedly neither God nor 
>> Satan are nearly as misogynist as Paul.
>>
>> Jim
>>
>> BlevinsJake at aol.com wrote:
>>
>>> Jim,
>>>
>>> Paul of course wrote from the perspective that Satan's deception of 
>>> Even already occurred, so yes it was woman who was deceived. The 
>>> question, I guess, would be did it have to be that way? PL depicts 
>>> an Adam who, I believe, could have been swayed--albeit, as I said 
>>> before, perhaps by a different mode of attack. The very fact that 
>>> Adam is not "tricked" by Eve but falls with full knowledge, so to 
>>> speak, makes it difficult for me to imagine that he couldn't have 
>>> been tricked into doing the same thing. You're right that an 
>>> important aspect becomes why did Satan choose to go after Eve 
>>> first--it could just be Milton's following the "historical" account 
>>> of the story or the general idea that woman is somehow a lesser 
>>> version of man, or Satan was privy to Eve's attitudes toward herself 
>>> at the pool. Regardless, none of that necessitates the idea that Eve 
>>> was without a doubt more vulnerable to the attack--only that Eve was 
>>> indeed vulnerable. Remember, Satan HOPES to find Eve alone, but 
>>> isn't he prepared to tempt the both of them if need be?
>>>
>>> Jacob 
>>




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