[Milton-L] response

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Mon Jul 31 11:02:53 EDT 2006

On Mon, 31 Jul 2006 10:16:43 +1200 Tom Bishop wrote:
> Shelley's and Blake's point... 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. 
I don't see how the first possibility (about secret intention) is
inconsistent with Blake's "devil's party" statement, at least. Moreover, I'm
not sure what it means to say that "Milton's imagination fails him."

One cannot usefully, for all kinds of reasons, speak of the	
> poetic imagination as an "intention". 
I'm afraid I don't understand this statement. An intention is usually
theorized as any instance of mental directedness. Thus any instance of
thinking about a given thing is intentional. The "poetic imagination,"
insofar as it is a mental state of being about things, is intentional. This
is why "meaning" and "intention" are synonymous.

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.	
I don't understand what is meant by "poetic vigour." Also, if we are talking
just about feelings, and evidence is irrelevant, I don't see how we can
speak about an "argument."

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. 
ok -- here we return to evidence. But I'm not sure what claim you are making
about its possibilities. 

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.
So what's the charge? Just that some of us don't like some of the poetry?
Perhaps not; but what does that leave us to talk about?


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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