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

James Rovira jrovira at drew.edu
Thu Feb 10 19:10:48 EST 2005

Sounds like a really interesting project, Mike. You probably don't have 
to worry about this unless you begin with an extended discussion of 
Blake, but it may be helpful to keep in mind that Blake's understanding 
of the "Devil's party" is radically different from what you'd normally 
identify as such from reading Paradise Lost. For Blake, it's best to do 
a straightforward comparsion of the diabolic and the angelic in 
_Marriage of Heaven and Hell_, after jettisoning any expectations that 
it'll bear much resemblance to Christian conceptions of angels and 
demons. I suspect, in Blake's case, "being of the Devil's party" has 
more to do with creativity, passion, and sensuality (excess) as opposed 
to discipline, reason, and, overall, Enlightenment principles. Blake 
would see himself as being of the Devil's party because he was opposed 
to State Religion, not because he was opposed to God. Both angels and 
demons are "good" in the sense that they both represent equally valid 
human potentialities that are supposed to remain in a dialectic, so what 
you see in MHH are representations of the extremes. And, I suspect, 
maybe Blake was in a very special tiff over something at the time, so 
was leaning more toward the Satanic at the time, but I haven't really 
pursued this thought. Shelley's preface to _Prometheus Unbound_ actually 
helps quite a bit with understanding Blake's -- and the Romantics' -- 
Satan as well.

Anyway, good luck.


And to answer Jims question,

>My paper will certainly embark from Blakes severance
>of intention and execution in Paradise Lost but I will
>seek to reconcile the two subjects as well.  The Son
>is, for example, a radical inverse of Satan and he
>amends the theodicy by reversing the devils critique
>of God.  And though Jesus is not yet incarnate at the
>end of the poem, there is nevertheless the prospect of
>his arrival.  So as Mitch already suggested, perhaps
>Satan is temporarily counterfeiting Miltons theodicy
>(as he does with heroism) until it is truly manifested
>in Paradise Regained.  But during the interlude, the
>bulk of the readers instruction is received from
>Satans catastrophic failure to make sense of his
>suffering with Gods omnibenevolence.
>Mike Streeter

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