[Milton-L] Re: porno vs. art?

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 24 17:13:53 EST 2005

What a terribly narrow, benighted interpretation of the Wyf's Tale,
Jesse--and of my use of it. You quote the Wyf, who is very, very different
(superficially) from the Hag in  her Tale: because society, and the abuse of
superficial males, has made her so. What they long for is the same: at
heart, she is as romantic as the character she creates, unable to express
that in a world in which "alle is for to selle" except in fantasy, and if
you can't see that, despite her coarse language and posturing about avenging
herself on her oppressors, and "getting the maisterie," then you don't
understand her--or Chaucer--or my comments--at all.

Precious few of the characters in the _Canterbury Tales_ are what they
seem--in the General Prologue, or in their own. That is true of the Wyf in
positive sense, though if you look closely, you will find the old Hag
beneath her bluster.

The rest of your comments are beyond response (from me, at least) as a

Carol Barton
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jesse Swan" <jesse.swan at uni.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2005 5:00 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: porno vs. art?

> Comparing Eve to Dame Alisoun's old hag seems apropos, since it represents
> the limiting way Carol Barton wishes to cast interpretations and the wider
> ways others are promoting.
> The old hag in Chaucer's tale is, importantly, Dame Alisoun's and Dame
> Alisoun is Chaucer's.  The good wife of the resort town known for people
> disrobing and bathing themselves (be the people nude or naked upon such
> disrobing may be up for interpretation, I suppose) interprets her old
> character and the new couple's relationship very differently from the way
> Carol Barton does:  Alisoun explains as she exclaims,
>    And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende
> In parfit joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende
> Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde,
> And grace t'overbyde hem that we wedde;
> And eek I praye Jhesu shorte hir lyves
> That noght wol be governed by hir wyves;
> And olde and angry nygardes of dispence,
> God sende hem soone verray pestilence!
> Surely, the genre of the tale Alisoun tells suggests Carol Barton's
> interpretation.  However, Chaucer's work suggests much more, in part by
> drawing on the genre of the tale to provide much of the humorous
> characterization of Alisoun:  the contrast dramatically shows her unable
> realize what she's saying, and only able to understand what she says as
> supporting what she wants.  Experience tells Alisoun that everyone has his
> or her own interpretation, as it tells us that characters such as Alisoun
> cannot understand the fullness of what they say and feel they know, never
> mind what others say and know.
> Milton is at least as capable as Chaucer in casting multiple suggestions
> simultaneously in the service of suggesting a complex, always interrelated
> sense of existence.  In this way, Eve is never just herself, even when
> gazing upon her reflection, anymore than the old hag is just herself, even
> when gazing on her own presumed hideousness when watching her young
> response to her advances.  In both the works of Milton and Chaucer, there
> are authors and there are self-consciously employed complex literary and
> theological contexts for the authors and their stories.
> jesse
> Jesse G. Swan, Ph.D.
> Associate Professor
> Department of English Language and Literature
> University of Northern Iowa
> Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0502
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Carol Barton" <cbartonphd at earthlink.net>
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2005 3:12 PM
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: porno vs. art?
> > Jeffery Hodges writes, "And here's where I'd disagree somewhat with
> > Satan's flattery is effective. His words make their way into her heart
> > because they elevate her, precisely the promise offered in the
> > scene as Satan's words begin to have their effect. The fruit is offered
> > the solution: This will elevate you, Eve, to goddess."
> >
> > I think this is a matter of semantics, Jeffery: I don't think she cares
> > about being "Queen of the Universe" or a _Sports Illustrated_ cover
> > model--and it isn't figurative "flattery" that will elevate her to a
> > station
> > above her present one--but, according to the serpent, the power of the
> > Fruit. I think it's important to see the Great Chain of Being in the
> > backdrop: just like Malvolio in _Twelfth Night_, she is reaching beyond
> > the
> > proper limits of her grasp, only here, the stakes are much higher, and
> > consequences far more dire. The (anti)ethical claim that everyone has
> > or
> > her price--that if you push the right "button," promise what the other
> > desires most, you will have him or her in your power--applies here. If
> > the serpent offered were flattery, Eve wouldn't fall: she doesn't want
> > be
> > worshipped sexually, she wants to be EQUAL to Adam intellectually--and
> > that's what the Fruit (according to the serpent) will give her: the
> > intelligence of the angels.
> >
> > In this regard, I see her as very close to Dame Alisoun's old hag in the
> > Wyf
> > of Bath's Tale: she doesn't want to dominate the man who loves her, but
> > she
> > wants to be loved for her intelligence, her capabilities, her spirit,
> > her soul--not her outside . . . and above all, she wants not to be "the
> > little woman"--she wants her voice to have equal weight with his--"for
> > inferior, who is free?" If the analogy will help (though it's not one I
> > like), Eve is the English people under Charles I: no matter what they
> > think
> > or want, he is the king, and he will do with their lives as he pleases
> > (even
> > take them, if he chooses). Charles insisted that he loved his people,
> > maybe, after his fashion, he did: but being loved, even adored, is not
> > same thing as being free--sometimes, it's the opposite (ask any bird in
> > gilded cage). Eve wants to be a person in her own right, not an
> > of
> > Adam, and she wants to have a say in her destiny. The Fruit promises her
> > that--in the serpent's voice--and that's the only suasion she hears.
> >
> > Best to all,
> >
> > Carol Barton
> >
> >
> >
> >
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