[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Tue Jul 11 12:32:26 EDT 2006

On Tue, 11 Jul 2006 13:52:32 -0400 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> "Esoteric readings are always possible, because the evidence for them,
> more-or-less by definition, is absent or secretive. But ought we not,
> for
> 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.

With this I entirely agree; but it contradicts, in my view, the reading you
offered, as well as your explanation below. A "cue," which may or may not be
"meant" -- is this not the very definition of an esoteric reading? 

And in any case, what are the "learned but well-known cues" in this case?
The word "chariot"? Is that not just a word? Regards, JDF

> 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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James Dougal Fleming, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713
cell: 778-865-0926

Laissez parler les faits.

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