[Milton-L] Cosmic and Sublime

FLANNAGAN, ROY ROY at uscb.edu
Sun Feb 3 08:21:17 EST 2008

And the Houghton Mifflin Riverside Milton has always had original spelling, capitalization, italics, and punctuation, based on the most authoritative texts and manuscripts of each poem or work of prose.
Though Milton was blind when Paradise Lost was first published, he seems to have had a close relationship with many of his publishers, and he knew how a book was composed by a printer's staff.  We have the manuscript of Book 1 of Paradise Lost, but it tells us only that the relationship between Milton, amanueses, and printer was a complex one; and we have the ten-book epic and the twelve-book epic, with changes made in the twelve-book epic made by Milton, as well as addtions such as the arguments, and we have the transitional lines that had to be added when books were split.
Sadly, but understandably, the people who care about recreating the texts closest to Milton himself or to standard printing practices of his time can be numbered on one set of hands.  And the task of recreating, say, a drop-cap like those of the 1667 or 1674 versions of Paradise Lost, and making the text flow as it did around that letter--that kind of job is hard and intricate and it requires careful judgment, careful eyesight, and careful page-composition.
It is difficult to do an "old-spelling" edition of Milton, as it is difficult to do a consistently modernized edition like that of John Leonard.  Some of us, like Barbara Lewalski, John Shawcross, and I have attempted to re-create what we consider to be editions closest to Milton's known wishes and the practices of his time, but of course all our editions are slightly different from each other's, and we all think we have made the best decisions about our texts based on careful collation and judgment of the value of spelling, capitalization, or (my favoirite) italics,
The decision about what edition to use must depend on the instructor's choice, based on cost, authority, and aesthetic appeal.  The choice now can involve digitized images of original editions or transcriptions of those editions that students can acquire, sort of, for free, with or without annotations.
One point about "old-spelling" editions that I would like to make is that they force a modern student to see Milton in the context of his time, which is far removed from our own time and needing the explanation of historical and biographical introduction and annotation.  One example given in a recent post to Milton-L is that of quotation marks for quotations within Paradise Lost.  If a student is taught to read paragraph indentation and the signposts that Milton himself (like Vergil) used, such as "he finished" or "he said," then there will be no problem telling when a character is beginning to speak again.
Roy Flannagan


From: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu]
Sent: Sun 2/3/2008 6:44 AM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu; srevard at siue.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Cosmic and Sublime

Please note that Barbara Lewalski's new edition of PL with 
Blackwell has original spelling and punctuation. Editions of 
the Shorter Poems and Selected Prose will also be forthcoming 
from Blackwell with original spelling and punctuation. 

Stella Revard 

Quoting "Peter C. Herman" <herman2 at mail.sdsu.edu>: 

> A small correction: The Modern Library editors 
> and others, such as David Kastan, are not 
> providing "modernized translations" of Milton, 
> but a modernization of Milton's spelling and 
> grammar. These editions are not to be mistaken 
> for, say, the contemporary versions of the 
> Canterbury Tales published by Penguin. Ms. 
> Stanger should be reassured that Milton's verse 
> and prose are not at all "translated" into 
> contemporary English, but brought into line with 
> contemporary conventions in exactly the same way 
> that we read "modernized" versions of Shakespeare 
> in the Riverside or "modernized" versions of 
> Chaucer in (also) the Riverside. There are good 
> arguments to be made for retaining Milton's 
> original spelling and grammar. For example, as 
> John Shawcross has informed me privately, Milton 
> was deeply involved with the printing of PL, and 
> so, the spelling and the grammar are his in a way 
> that the quartos are not Shakespeare's. But 
> modernizing Milton as the Modern Library editors 
> do is not at all diluting or "dumbing down" our 
> man. It's about making him more accessible. 
> Peter C. Herman 
> P.s. 
> Could Ms. Stanger explain a bit further what she 
> means by a "star test" and how they "create 
> curriculum"? many thanks in advance, pch 
> At 04:33 PM 2/2/2008, you wrote: 
> >I work for a tutoring center (while i labor over my degree) and we give 
> >out star tests to create curriculum. What I found appalling is that when a 
> >student scores a 50% it is considered grade level. Sadly we just received 
> >an email from the board of education stating that the national standard 
> >for star testing has just been lowered all over the country because 
> >students are now scoring even lower than the average 50%. This information 
> >compounded by the fact that they've now modernized Milton because people 
> >think he's too hard to read just makes me feel even worse for the state of 
> >our educational system. As always it seems like they (the powers that be 
> >or whoever is to blame) are not attempting to fix a problem just cover it 
> >up. I would think so much is lost in these modernized translations of 
> >Milton and Shakespeare. When I reached college I felt let down by my high 
> >school education and started to really see the lack in our system. I guess 
> >my question is, can we do anything? Or, is my naiveté showing? 
> > 
> > > This is a Wall Street Journal article about the new Modern Library Milton 
> > > collected poems and selected prose 
> > > 
> > > 
> > > 
> http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120182675406533779.html?mod=googlenews_wsj 
> > > 
> > > 
> > > Paul Miller 
> > > 
> > > _______________________________________________ 
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