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

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 30 04:35:57 EDT 2006

James Dougal Fleming wrote:

>>Here we have several arguments. Strier adumbrates,
more-or-less, the esoteric hermeneutics that has such
broad and complex support in the Western tradition,
and finds its classic modern expression in the work of
Leo Strauss.<<

Interesting that you connect this approach to Strauss.
I had a similar reaction:


But I didn't carry the analysis nearly so far as you

Anyway, you go on to note two difficulties.

>>My difficulties with the point are of two main

First: esotericism is a paradox. It directs the reader
to a text behind the text, an intension behind an
intension. But if the said text/intension is _evident_
-- whether in textual consistencies or inconsistencies
-- it is not esoteric. Conversely, if it is esoteric,
it cannot be evident. Thus to the question "how can we
recover covert intentions?" the only real answer is
"we can't. We can only recover intentions as they are
made available to us in a text. The esoteric/exoteric
and covert/overt distinctons are not, as they appear
to be, hermeneutic advances, but entrammelments and
red herrings." Strier aligns the esoteric theory,
correctly, with Freud, deconstruction and some New
Criticism. I would align the countervailing exoteric
theory, just outlined, with Gadamer, Davidson, and
speech-act theory.<<

While I don't think that Milton was really writing a
critique of the Christian God rather than justifying
the Christian God (and thus I reject that particular
Straussian type of reading), I wouldn't flat-out
reject a covert possibility. I see the paradox that
you set up, but this seems too radical a distinction
to me, one based upon an overly strict definition of
covert-esoteric. A covert-esoteric subtext could leave
clues for the astute reader.

But perhaps I haven't understood you. Are you making a
terminological point, or are you arguing that there
are never any hidden meanings that subvert the
ostensible meaning?

>>Second: Straussian esotericism has, at least, the
merit that it claims to be interested in what a writer
meant. But of course this is not the same as an
interest in what a writer meant to mean, or would have
meant if he had attained greater reflexive clarity,
"unconsciously." Indeed, the two interests are
hermeneutically antithetical.<<

Could you clarify this distinction for me? By "what a
writer meant," do you mean what the text actually
states? I ask because "what a writer meant to mean"
seems to imply that if the writer had attained greater
clarity, then the text would have more closely
corresponded to the writer's intention.

Is that what you meant?

Jeffery Hodges

University Degrees:

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Email Address:

jefferyhodges at yahoo.com



Office Address:

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea

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