[Milton-L] RE: Samson's prayer for revengr

HANNIBAL HAMLIN hamlin.22 at osu.edu
Mon Feb 25 18:12:08 EST 2008

There's no place like home, there's no place like home!

I think the point has been made about SA, but re. ambiguity, it's hardly a postmodern invention.  Remember Empson and the 7 types (1930)?  Much of Empson's reading was in Renaissance poets like Donne and Shakespeare.  I note from the OED that Puttenham includes the ambiguous, or "figure of sense uncertain" in The Arte of English Poesie (I could claim I remembered it, but I'll fess up).  And one might also point out Milton's use of the word in Paradise Regained, when the Son responds to Satan (1.4.434ff.):

But what have been thy answers? what but dark, 
Ambiguous, and with double sense deluding, 
Which they who asked have seldom understood, 
And, not well understood, as good not known?


Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University
Book Review Editor and Associate Editor, Reformation

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----- Original Message -----
From: Paul Miller <pm9 at comcast.net>
Date: Monday, February 25, 2008 2:57 pm
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] RE: Samson's prayer for revengr

> Jim
> I am not trying to posit that there is no intended ambiguity in 
> Milton's 
> work just none intended by our esteemed author in this paticular 
> instance. 
> Responses have ranged from unadorned assertion to dogmatic 
> certainty that 
> the passage in view is pregnant with ambiguity. It is not enough 
> to assume 
> authorial ambiguity because Milton is known to have written it in 
> in other 
> places in his work. The source text and context argue against it 
> and there 
> has been little evidential argument put forward on this list to 
> gainsay my 
> position just naked assertion. I think it must be hoped that if 
> the mantra 
> of ambiguity is repeated often it might prove soporiferous enough 
> to put me 
> in thrall to the god Hypnos or maybe transport me to a poppy field 
> with 
> Dorothy and Toto.
> Paul Miller
> So Hills amid the Air encounterd Hills
> Hurl'd to and fro with jaculation dire,
> That under ground, they fought in dismal
> shade --- Paradise Lost
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 11:55 AM
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] RE: Samson's prayer for revengr
> > Paul --
> >
> > Differences in interpretation here, from my point of view, do not
> > proceed from any commitment to "postmodernism" (which, frankly, 
> annoys> me), than it does from close attention to the language of 
> the text,
> > from attention to Milton's own historical context and his likely
> > response to it, and that Milton chose to present his material
> > ambiguously.  Again, we need to see this ambiguity as a deliberate
> > choice on Milton's part, not a limitation to which he was subject.
> > Milton chose to represent the scene from the messenger's point 
> of view
> > and chose to place the messenger in such a way as to render his
> > testimony ambiguous.  Hannibal's previous post emphasized that we
> > can't assume a uniformity of opinion on the part of Milton's 
> readers.>
> > To me, the best way to approach this topic is to read these lines
> > fully within the context of the  poem, and if I wasn't so behind 
> in my
> > grading right now I'd do that.  You're providing me a great service,
> > actually: an excuse not to be grading another paper right now.  
> Thank> you...thank  you...
> >
> > Jim R
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