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

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sun Jul 30 10:36:04 EDT 2006

My reading of Derrida and others is that the distinction between
overt/covert readings of texts is something that inheres in the social
context of the text, not necessarily a sole quality of the words on
the page independent of social context.  Now don't get me wrong -- the
words on the page make these various readings possible, but only
social context makes a distinction between overt and covert readings

So if a "critique of God the Father" is Milton's intended "covert"
meaning of the text, we can say that is the case because Milton's
audience would expect him to be defending God and presenting a
blameless God so would read him accordingly.  These meanings would
become "overt" to us because of our historical distance from Milton's
own social context, a distance which makes us more open to the
possibility of a critique of God than Milton's original audience would
have been.

All readings such as these presume knowledge of intent as well as
knowledge of socially expected readings.  They tend to presume this
knowledge without presenting any argument independent of the text
itself, however, so fail to actually make their argument, mistaking a
string of assertions for an argument.

I would also say that the "moral reasoning" invoked to condemn the
Father is hardly admirable: the Father is dishonest because the word
"directly" does not literally and geographically describe Satan's
route (although a good argument has been presented against that
claim).  This is a game of "gotcha" that ten year olds play with one

Furthermore, the Father's claims that even Hell couldn't restrain
Satan must refer to the physical restraints of Hell rather than
Satan's own internal restraints, but it is inconceivable that the
gates of hell open from within to -keep people out who don't belong
there-.  Only sin and death can allow people -in- to Hell--get it?

Finally, the Father seems to have failed in love by allowing Adam and
Eve to be tempted, without considering the possibility that Satan's
verbal temptation merely balances the Father's verbal command, making
Adam and Eve's choice -that much more meaningful-.

The overall problem with these arguments is that they allow -only one-
literal reading of the text, identifies that one allowed reading as
Milton's intent, and then bases its assumptions upon this sole literal
reading of the text.

It would be more useful to affirm the text's polyvalence, present
these condemning readings of the Father as legitimate alternate
readings, and then understand one's preference for one reading over
another as a function of one's own intent, not Milton's -- which is
exactly what I think is happening here.

Jim R

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