[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

John Rumrich rumrich at mail.utexas.edu
Wed Jul 12 14:27:26 EDT 2006

Fred Hoerner published a carefully argued essay discussing Adam's 
invention of fire in the contexts of Augustinian theology and practice 
theory.  In it, he addresses many of the concerns touched on in this 

Here's the citation:  Fred Hoerner, "'Fire to Use': A Practice-Theory 
Approach to Paradise Lost," Summer 1995, 51: 94-117.

John Rumrich

On Jul 12, 2006, at 1:01 PM, jfleming at sfu.ca wrote:

> On Tue, 11 Jul 2006 19:54:55 -0400 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
>> Adam invents fire when bad weather begins after the Fall
>> (10.1070-85). This is after Adam has absorbed Eve's idea of
>> repentance and begun to think there may be a point to carrying on
>> with life.
>> Michael Gillum
> Granted. But (1) this is a response to the fall, helping to throw the 
> fall
> (with its temperature control, uncooked dinners, and guiltless tools) 
> into
> relief. (2) even here, A does not "invent" fire, in the modern and
> technological sense. Perhaps we could say that he "invents" it in the
> early-modern, rhetorical sense. But perhaps it would be simpler to 
> note that
> "invention" and its cognates, with all of their problematic 
> associations,
> are absent from the passage (cp Satan's gunpowder speech in 6).
> Fire is not a capability that Adam discovers where it was unapparent 
> -- as
> Satan discovers gunpowder beneath the green fields of Heaven. Neither 
> is
> fire something that A proffers as a startling or new possibility, or
> anything that stretches vocabulary in the manner of new technologies --
> compare Raphael's stammering attempt to describe cannon in 6. Rather, 
> the
> possibility of fire is something that Adam identifies as apparent in 
> his and
> E's experience, and available for imitation precisely because it is
> established and intelligible:
> 		   as late the Clouds
> Justling or pusht with Winds rude in thir shock
> Tine the slant Lightning, whose thwart flame driv'n down
> Kindles the gummy bark of Fir or Pine,
> And sends a comfortable heat from far,
> Which might supply the Sun: such Fire to use,
> ... He will instruct us praying (10.1073-1081)
> It is hard to imagine a less Promethean, or less Satanic, account of 
> the
> matter. Not only has God been giving fire, even when it wasn't needed, 
> all
> along; A also assumes, correctly, that _prayer_ is the way to figure 
> out how
> to use it. If A identifies a _techne_ in this passage, it is prayer. 
> But
> this is hardly technological. Something is at stake here for M.
> JD Fleming
> 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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