[Milton-L] "nude, not naked" -- really?

James Rovira jrovira at drew.edu
Tue Nov 22 18:58:44 EST 2005

This feels like a half truth, Prof. Strier, largely because of two 
relatively recent experiences of sex in media.

The first was watching Eyes Wide Shut some years ago.  The sex in that 
film was unquestionably pornographic.  But it was revolting (and I think 
this was Kubrick's intent), not exciting, and the tension I felt was for 
Cruise's character, a married man, to stay faithful to his wife -- I 
wasn't longing to see him fulfill my own desires to participate, because 
they weren't there.  That being said, I don't think it would be healthy 
to watch this film repeatedly.

The next was seeing a live performance of Salome about a year ago.  The 
"big shocker" was that Salome's character appears fully nude, briefly, 
near the end of the play.  She was, of course, sent to seduce John the 
Baptist, and undoubtedly the whole thing was very scandalous 100 years 
ago -- perhaps even titillating.  When I watched, however, the audience 
did not feel the seductive pull.  Pitifully, a large segment of the 
audience -laughed- when she came on to John the Baptist _one more time_. 
  He was clearly not going to be interested in her, making her attempts 
at seduction comic when they were intended to contribute to the dramatic 
tension of the play.

So we have two instances of the erotic being non sexual -- one in which 
it was disgusting, another in which it was ludicrous.

I tend to agree with Rose that the Brits can be trusted with this better 
than Hollywood.  Or the Japanese.

I also have in the back of my mind C.S. Lewis' observation that the mind 
is our biggest erotic organ.  I think reading the text may be more 
erotic than anything that could be presented on screen or film.  Perhaps 
Blake was on to something when he simply read the text of PL to his wife...

But again, this all depends on presentation.

Jim R.

Richard Strier wrote:
> Yes, we are lewd viewers.  That's what being fallen means.  In concept, 
> we can distinguish before and after, but not in experience. Watching 
> unfallen sex would be just as hot, if not hotter, than watching unfallen 
> sex.  As would watching a nude picnic.  We would be kidding ourselves 
> not to acknowledge this, and failing to take into account what being 
> fallen means-- that's the "something."  Who are we kidding about 
> "innocent nudity"?  In idea, yes.  In reality, no. Roger Scruton 
> recently tried to argue that great art can't really be erotic.  What 
> nonsense.
> The Graves poem seems quite complex and tricky to me.  To think that it 
> "resolves" the issue seems to me a bad reading of that nice (though very 
> minor and not very serious) poem.

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