[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

Harold Skulsky hskulsky at email.smith.edu
Tue Jul 11 14:52:32 EDT 2006

"Esoteric readings are always possible, because the evidence for them,
more-or-less by definition, is absent or secretive. But ought we not,
that reason, be rather cautious with our esoteric readings?"

When there's no evidence for a reading, or the evidence was withheld
from the intended audience, the reading is an appropriation and not a
reading. From where I sit, the appropriate level of caution for esoteric
readings is abstention.

The stuff about the chariot is not very learned by the relevant
standard; it's common knowledge among 17th-c. readers qualified to catch
Miltonic allusions. The learned but well-known cues are there (see
background in Revard and Lieb). It's always possible that Milton didn't
mean the cues to function here as cues, that they're so much
gingerbread. But that doesn't change their status as cues; a language
user can't silently and unilaterally opt out of the conventions by which
he lives.

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