[Milton-L] The Failure of Milton's Theodicy

Angelica Duran aduran at cla.purdue.edu
Wed Feb 9 07:11:09 EST 2005

Dear Michael,

Your project sounds great.  And I look forward to reading the results of
your study and research, especially because, as a student, I was puzzled by
the general notion that good stories and by extension good literature
centers around the hero.  Northrup Frye's collection of radio addressed,
_The Educated Imagination_, summarizes this general notion.  In my survey
course, rather than teach _Beowulf_, I teach the poem "God's Gifts to
Humankind" (a.k.a "The Endowments of Men") from the Exeter Book, and I also
assign _Utopia_, for example.  In both, you would be hard pressed to find
single hero.  Instead, the hero is the community within the text and the
readers who respond to it.  I tend to think this is how heroism works in
_Paradise Lost_ -- I agree with you that we get a distinct but complementary
version in _Paradise Regained_.  Norbrook's discussions of republicanism are
helpful; and we can just think of the general push of humanism for universal
education (not achieved but desired) as symptomatic of such a desired move
towards a redefinition heroism (that of course looks forward to the
population growth that would lead to the concept of "mass culture" within a
century.  The very dispersal of heroism of God the Father, God the Son,
Uriel, Gabriel, Michael, Gabriel, Abdiel, Adam, and Eve -- and Milton
assigns various of these characters chief qualities of "epic heroes" --
points to the heroism of the community in contrast to that of the Satanic
figure who speaks about equality when convenient for his ends but whose
actions speak to the desire to be a hero, with all the glory.

Within the past month, I emailed the list about a classroom exercise that I
hope elicits the fear and disgust that Satan can provoke: I had witnessed
too many people like Satan growing up in ganglands to read Milton's
character from the distance of ignorant bliss.  By that last sentence, I
mean no insult to anyone: I have worked very hard to be in a safe
environment so that my children are experientially ignorant of such people.
I hope to have helped them, however, be very informed of such characters in

If I may wax professional, I have seen the value of dispersing rather than
concentrating heroism in having to learn how to operate effectively -- for
the greater good, so to speak -- in groups, like in department meetings,
university programs, and more.


Angelica Duran
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Purdue University
500 Oval Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907
(765) 496-3957
<duran0 at cla.purdue.edu>*
                         *Please note new email address as of February 2005.

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