[Milton-L] milton's all

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 19 22:30:30 EDT 2007


Thanks, Gregory. I like "infinitude." I wonder ... is chaos the largest realm? Or does Heaven extend 'upward' as far as God? Does God fill all 'space'? For Milton, I mean.
   
  Jeffery Hodges

Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> wrote:
    I have been following with great interest this discussion of the spaces Milton depicts in Paradise Lost, and the question of what are nomenclature for them collectively should be.  To Horace Jeffery Hodges question of whether Milton ever uses a word to refer to everything, Jameela Lares quickly gave my first answer, "all."  But I would also propose "infinitude" (7.169).  Gordon Teskey has a powerful reading, in Delirious Milton, of "Boundless the deep because I am who fill / Infinitude, nor vacuous the space / Though I uncircumscribed Myself retire / And put not forth my goodness" a reading he hints at even in the notes of his Norton edition when he gloses the passage:

In the beginning, God is totality and fills, to infinity, all space.  Space is therefore not empty (vacuous) but filled with the substance of God, his essential being.  God withdraws from totality to the place of his presence in Heaven, this high temple (line 148), leaving a residue, which was formerly (but is no longer) God's substance.  The residue is instead the substance of chaos . . . God now confronts this chaos of substance and may (or may not) put forth is goodness by creating new beings . . . (p. 163).

I guess this suggests another of Milton's names for everything:  God (which is, incidentally, what we are told will someday be "all in all").

On the other question, of how to visually depict Milton's universe.  For me, one major thrill of the poem (and a product of its being in a verbal medium rather than a visual one) is the number of places where it allows me to *imagine* things that I cannot *picture*, if I may be allowed to put it that way.   God is "high throned above all height"  What the heck would that look like?  And yet my mind imagines *something* when I read the lines.  However visual our students are, I find they can often be  brought to enjoy this hyper-visual dimension of Milton's artistry.  We should not, in my opinion, bring PL down to what they're accustomed to experiencing (or not just do that), but bring them up to the higher delights that it offers.


Greg Machacek
Associate Professor of English
  Marist College


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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

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Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
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