[Milton-L] Satan

Angelica Duran aduran at cla.purdue.edu
Tue Feb 15 12:17:20 EST 2005

Dear scholars,

Someone on this list recommended Alicia Ostriker's _Dancing at the Devil's
Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic_.  Thank you for the
reference: there are so many important books to read, and we can't be aware
of all of them. I would recommend the slim book: very interesting. The book,
however, left me still wanting an account of the attraction to Satan in
_Paradise Lost_.  

As with many works, Ostriker maintains, rather than describes or accounts
for, the assumption that all readers like Milton's Satan, or like him better
than Milton's God, Milton's Adam, etc. We have records of many early readers
who did not find Satan attractive.  I believe that many scholars who know
this assume that those early readers were so indoctrinated that they could
not think their way out of such emotional responses, and that the English
Romantic writers (whom Ostriker brings up) were finally distanced enough to
see or admit a preference for Satan.

I still remember my first reading of _Paradise Lost_ -- in fact, all my
subsequent scholarship has been directed to making sense of my first
responses and early discussions with students, professors, and friends.  I
felt repulsed by Satan -- not a feeling I have for all literary Satans. I
believe my repulsion to a credit to Milton's poetic skill. And, I found the
archangels and Adam pretty sexy.  I believe there is a hesitancy to admit
such a reader response because others find such a reading naïve, in contrast
to the refined readings that see Satan as so attractive.  I am convinced
that such is not the case, however.  I am reminded of the interest in Eve's
attractiveness in _Paradise Lost_ and the hoopla about the small-waisted,
long-haired Ariel from Disney's movie _The Little Mermaid_;  Adam and Prince
Eric are pretty idealized and sexy too.  My attraction to Adam was early on
in my educational career: I do not think I was trying to come to the text
with a fresh or unusual reading.


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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