[Milton-L] O Eve, in evil hour...

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 16 23:03:20 EST 2005

My graduate class on Milton discussed an issue similar
to this on Tuesday.

1. God seems to speak like a good Ramist (i.e., Peter
Ramus) in PL 3.80-134, intent on speaking with
precision by carefully delimiting the meaning of his
terms, especially the meaning of "free will."

2. Satan, by contrast, "scoffing in ambiguous words"
(PL 6.568), uses language to deceive, mislead, obscure
-- and thus employs puns in order to equivocate and
thereby mislead the reasoning powers of those to whom
he speaks (but also misleads himself).

These two are the extremes, precision for God,
equivocation for Satan, but a middle ground exists

3. ...the unfallen Adam and Eve, who also use wordplay
but not to deceive. Thus in PL 9.235-241, Adam plays
on the meanings of "refreshment" -- physical food for
the body, talk as food of the mind, and looks and
smiles as food of love. In this case of unfallen
language, Adam uses the multiple meanings of a word
not to obscure a specious argument but to open and
enrich meaning.

These, at least, were what we suggested in our
seminar. We didn't check systematically throughout all
of PL.

Jeffery Hodges

--- carl bellinger <bcarlb at comcast.net> wrote:

> A) OK, we have Satanic puns (and wordplay of various
> sorts) of the fallen 
> beings, and puns of Milton and his divine Muse. Are
> these two possibilities 
> the entire taxonomy? Is there any middle ground, or
> third general category? 
> Are there worthwhile distinctions within 'the good'
> and 'the bad'  general 
> categories of pun and wordplay?  The famous passage
> ~2.555 might seem to 
> caution the reader from being too sure about what is
> demonic and what is 
> divine in the attractive subtleties of discourse:
> Thir Song was partial, but the harmony
> (What could it less when Spirits immortal sing?)
> Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment
> The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet
> [2.555 ]
> (For Eloquence the Soul, Song charms the Sense,)
> Others apart sat on a Hill retir'd,
> In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high...
> If the fallen angels can manage Orphic harmony and
> soul-pleasing eloquence 
> can't they also manage divinely prescient punning
> and wordplay? But perhaps 
> I have the question wrong.
> B) The entire rhetorical pastiche, so to speak,
> which PL presents to the 
> reader [-- of puns and wordplay,
> etymological/literary/musical/historical 
> reference (drawn against Greek, Latin, Hebrew,
> Italian, and other 
> literatures), scientific & astronomical reference,
> rhetorical figure and 
> schema, visual image, acoustical "image,"
> rhythmic/prosodic variation, 
> etcetera--] is staggeringly dense. What reader can
> deal, from one phrase to 
> the next, with even the half of it? Has it been
> argued anywhere that the 
> staggeringly dense texture of PL, from phrase to
> phrase and line to line, 
> functions (and is intended to function) as an
> emblem, or an instance which 
> the reader must suffer, of the impenetrability of
> the rhetoric of God's 
> creation and revelation?
> Carl

University Degrees:

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Email Address:

jefferyhodges at yahoo.com



Office Address:

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea

Home Address:

Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
Sehan Apt. 102-2302
Sinnae-dong 795
Seoul 131-770
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