[Milton-L] swerving

carl bellinger bcarlb at comcast.net
Tue Sep 25 14:04:05 EDT 2007

This fine catalogue --"the ostensibly nonsensical, the paradoxical, the 
mercurial, the polysemous"-- which Fleming applies to Milton's rhetoric 
seems not dissimilar to characterizations of Chaos he and others have 
offered recently.

Now Fish makes the rhetorical effect of PL a judgment or disclosure of the 
reader's sin. Please correct me if I don't have that right.  But, if so, 
mustn't we then formulate thus: Milton has created a text whose 
(nonsensical, etc..... polysemous...) rhetoric provides just the sort of 
fertile (and illusory) psychological environment for us sinners as Chaos 
provides for Satan?

This line of thought would suggest that those who, with Fleming, enjoy and 
discover and prefer the nonsensical/mercurial/etc. spaces&qualities of 
Paradise Lost are of one party, perceiving the poem and their own place in 
it as Satan perceives Chaos.  Better to reign in Polysemy than serve in 
Faith. While another party doubts not in the end (and perhaps not even in 
the beginning) but that "warne him beware / He swerve not too secure" means 
simply "warne him beware / He swerve not, too secure." Milton leaves the 
comma out so that the text can play its winnowing role, but to the fit 
audience, comma or no comma, "simply doesn't matter."


----- Original Message ----- 
From: <jfleming at sfu.ca>
To: <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 9:58 AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] swerving

> In my opinion, the ostensibly nonsensical -- the paradoxical, the 
> mercurial,
> the polysemous, etc. -- is precisely appropriate to the extraordinary task
> of representing unfallen freedom.
> And it is freedom, isn't it? JDF

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