[Milton-L] response to Prof. Fleming

Tom Bishop tgb2 at case.edu
Mon Jul 31 11:16:43 EDT 2006

Professor Richard's Strier's position is surely not, if I understand  
it correctly, a position of "covert intentionalism" or Straussianism.  
Shelley's and Blake's point, which has has been championing so ably,  
is that it is Milton's imagination that fails him in depicting the  
Father, not that he has some secret "intention" hidden even from  
himself but being expressed by some other agency, let alone that he  
has deliberately written a poetry that proves the reverse of what it  
seems to. One cannot usefully, for all kinds of reasons, speak of the  
poetic imagination as an "intention", so he cannot be challenged on  
that ground. The argument -- a very strong one I believe, but one  
which can hardly respond to the demand for "evidence" except to point  
at the poem itself -- turns on what many readers, this one included,  
have felt is a failure of poetic vigour (not reasoning) where the  
Father is concerned.  In response one can claim, as Lewis did, that  
such views in turn misread the poem from their own biases. But there  
might be kinds of evidence in the Father's speeches one could cite:  
metrical brittleness, poverty of diction, costive rhythm, and so  
forth. It will not answer such a charge to show that Milton is  
logically consistent, theologically precise, or hermeneutically  
impeccable. These are not the things complained of.

Tom Bishop

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