[Milton-L] Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sat Dec 27 09:53:52 EST 2008

Nancy -- I said in my very first reply on this thread:

<<So a statement that Milton was the greatest author who ever lived sounds
these days more like an emotional expression on the part of the person
speaking rather than a careful evaluation of literature.>>

I should have added that's a perfectly legitimate emotional expression.  But
J's subsequent responses sounded like he meant more than this -- he was
making objective comparisons, and still is, by insisting no one is greater
in fact, and asking for names -- not just in his subjective experience of
the poetry.  I also suggested in my very first reply that the problem with
any idea of greatness is that there's little agreement on the standards of

But it was in a slightly longish post like this one that requires reading.
Too much work on a holiday.

J. -- The idea of a separation between "scholars" and "artists" doesn't hold
up well.  Most academics who study poetry have also published poetry.  There
are many successful mid-list novelists who also teach because that's a more
stable source of income.  Arthur Miller, T.S. Eliot, Tolkein, Lewis, Annie
Dillard -- all creative writers with strong connections to academics.  Some
started in the academy, some started as creative writers.  To get an even
better idea, though, go to the faculty pages of any major university and
check out the publications of different faculty members.  You will usually
find several who have also published creative work.  I published poetry and
other works before I completed my undergraduate degree.  But
$15.00-$25.00/poem plus a copy of the magazine just doesn't cut it.  I could
publish a book of poetry and make big bucks, I guess.  We all know how well
those sell.

"Greater" is a comparative term.  The word "writing" covers everything.  Not
so much about genre, but about what we expect a work to do while we read
it.  PL is indeed one of the greatest works in English, probably in any
language.  I don't know how anyone could possibly determine if any work was
greater or not.  For sheer poetic effect, the poem's syntax sometimes makes
reading it too much like figuring out a Sudoku puzzle.  But that's part of
the poem's greatness as well.

Jim R
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