[Milton-L] swerving

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Tue Sep 25 15:45:29 EDT 2007

You effectively illuminate the dependence of your proposed reading (and
similar such readings) on a mysteriously pre-hermeneutic understanding (of
What Milton Must Have Meant). Accompanying the latter appear to be a
didactic authoritarianism, and an irritated contempt for dialogue. All of
which, in my opinion, Milton constructs in _PL_ as Satanic. 

As you suggest, on your reading, as on Fish's (who broadens the point to the
whole plane of the text), whether or not a given line has or merits a comma
simply doesn't matter. But this seems to me a gross misunderstanding of what
does and does not matter in philological inquiry. I would propose that
punctuation, in some circumstances, does; but that the material origins of
the universe (to take us back to where we started), in most circumstances,
do not.

JD Fleming

On Tue, 25 Sep 2007 14:04:05 -0400 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> 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."
> Carl
> ----- 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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James Dougal Fleming
Department of English
Simon Fraser University
cell: 778-865-0926

Nicht deines, einer Welt.

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