[Milton-L] Re: Cynthia's list (and Carol's additions)

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Mon Aug 7 23:44:39 EDT 2006

Especially at this early stage of my graduate career, I have great empathy
for Jeffery Hodges. I too would require an eternity to get through my
reading list. I take it we've all read Borges's story about the library (if
not, put it in the bathroom: it's short).

But Carrol Cox has a point. For me, the Iliad's greatness lies in the great
catalogue of deaths (something that tends to be left out when it is
excerpted). The power comes because Homer, at least until Achilles starts
killing people by the dozens, names each soldier. Quasi-fictional example
(too late at night to look up a real one): "Diomedes' spear split
Pheidippides' head, splashing bits of brain around his helmet. Now
Pheidippides will never go home to his father X and wife Y, and he will
never see his little plot of land in Z again." Of course, given the Odyssey,
going home is no joke either. But the cumulative sense I get from all these
personal portraits of death—of characters who wouldn't get more than three
frames in a modern action flick—is a profound feeling for the value of a
human life.

Not to wax melodramatic, but as a graduate student, I have to choose every
day what I will and will not read (I'm sure this problem is a familiar one
to most list members). And I feel great loss over some of those books I will
probably never make it to (though for some, I confess, there is an elation).
I have a friend who was being pressured to take a seminar on the Victorian
novel. His interlocutor said, "But these novels are brilliant!" To which my
friend replied, "I'm sure they are, but they're also all 800 pages long, and
your eyes still have to go back and forth across all those pages." Of course
this same friend has also read Finnegans Wake. Twice.

So I guess my point is: whether eternity is a desirable state or not (and I
respect the difference of opinion on this point), I feel obligated to end
this post and get back to the Faerie Queene...

Jason A. Kerr

"Den som vover mister Fodfæste et Øieblick;
den som ikke vover mister Livet."
                                    -Søren Kierkegaard
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