[Milton-L] overt beliefs & reading; the Son's role

Richard Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sat Jul 29 14:05:22 EDT 2006

Mr. Fleming asks: "What evidence can there be for M's (or any 
writer's) "unconsciously critiquing his own overt system of beliefs"?

This is quite a remarkable question in the beginning of the 21st 
century, after Freud, deconstruction, and even sophisticated New 
Criticism.  That writers -- and other (all?) persons -- may, and 
often are, divided in their minds about key issues, or hold 
incompatible values, or have beliefs, etc that they may not admit to 
themselves should hardly need demonstration.  And that the texts 
produced by persons with divided minds, etc should reflect this 
situation in ways that are not fully under the control of the writer 
should also hardly be surprising.  The evidence for such divisions of 
mind, etc are contradictions, inconsistencies, moments were a text 
seems to be undermining its overt intentions, etc. -- all of the 
things that careful reading, deconstructive or otherwise, turns up. 
It's hard for me to believe that any serious reader at this point 
believes that texts simply mean what their authors say they mean 
(inside or outside the text).  What an author says about what he/she 
means may, of course, be  evidence about their overt intention 
(assuming the statement is not coerced, etc, etc).  But that's the 
most that it is evidence for.  If that's all the evidence one could 
use, one wouldn't have to pay attention to details of texts at all.

Also, and I think that politeness and decorum is called for in these 
exchanges, please show me, in a calm mode, the "verifiable 
erroneousness" of the claim that in the Father's first speech in Book 
3 he has already decided that "Man therefore shall find grace" 
(because he was "deceived" rather than "self-depraved").  Please show 
me that there is any indication in this speech that the Father takes 
into account anything other than His own moral sense in making the 
decision -- firmly and absolutely, "Man therefore shall" -- that 
human salvation will be possible (but fallen angelic salvation not 

And, please show me (calmly, again) the "necessary role" of the Son 
here or anywhere else in the poem.
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