[Milton-L] Satan

rpyoder rpyoder at ualr.edu
Tue Feb 15 13:17:05 EST 2005

This may seem obvious, but I'm not sure anyone has mentioned it  yet -- have 
you looked 
at Fish's *Surprised by Sin* and the various documents involved in the "Milton 
Controversy" of the mid-20th century?  Fish's book is clearly a response to / 
of the  various issues involved in the controversy.  One of those issues is 
whether or not 
Milton really understood what he was getting into when he undertook to expand 
the brief 
passage from Genesis into an epic, and one of the supposed "proofs" for 
shortcomings is the mixed responses to Satan.  The charge, in response to 
which Fish 
argues, is that Milton's narrator does really understand how great Satan is; 
thus Satan 
makes great speeches which the narrator misunderstands in his moralizing 
on those speeches -- or so the anti-Miltonists argued.  You don't have to 
agree with Fish's 
overall thesis in order to find useful his summary / documentation of the 
attractiveness of 
Satan (and so, then, how  we can be surprised by sin).

Paul Yoder

>===== Original Message From John Milton Discussion List <milton-
l at lists.richmond.edu> =====
>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.
>Milton-L mailing list
>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu

R.  Paul Yoder
Associate Professor of English
English Dept.
2801 S.  University
Little Rock, AR 72204-1099
Ph. 501-569-8321

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