[Milton-L] Jim Watt re Abdiel

Watt, James jwatt at butler.edu
Tue Jul 1 14:01:26 EDT 2008


Yes, Alice.  I am currently away from my books (long story involving trying to sell house and move, etc.), but would certainly agree that Vaughan is rather more obviously rhetorical.  Herbert is a harder nut to crack.  Like Donne, he knows EXACTLY what he is about, but unlike the Dean, he is better at concealing his craft.

Jim Watt
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Alice Crawford Berghof [aberghof at uci.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, July 01, 2008 1:37 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] Jim Watt re Abdiel

Dear Jim,
Yes, thank you for reading my posting and yes, what a great point to
make of the lovely sonnets.  I can't wait to reread them with this in
mind.  Wondering if you find a difference in the nature of presentiment
when one brings Herbert and Vaughan into the picture.  In Vaughan, the
presentiment is most forcefully rhetorical, in my view.
Alice

On Jun 30, 2008, at 12:20 PM, Watt, James wrote:

> Thanks, Alice.  I think point #2 is especially interesting.
> Presentiment in Epic is, naturally, rather a different matter than
> presentiment in film or the novel.  And when one moves to lyric, I
> wonder if presentiment isn't a more FORMAL quality.  When reading,
> that is, one of Donne's Divine
> sonnets, the form itself operates to focus and prepare the final
> lines, doesn't it?
>
> Jim Watt
> ________________________________________
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Alice Crawford
> Berghof [aberghof at uci.edu]
> Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2008 1:41 AM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel
>
> In response to Jim Rovira's most recent and quite fascinating posting,
> I have three quick comments regarding my small role in this.  Sorry not
> to respond more fully.
>
> 1. In my opinion, psychology and language are related, but the way they
> are related in literary characters differs from the way they are
> related in real people.  To begin with your terms, the "choice of
> language" is not Adam's nor Eve's, but Milton's.  That would be a
> starting point for future debate.
>
> 2. I find the notion of presentiment to be useful in precisely the
> terms you use, but perhaps more as a subtlety of genre (re the genre
> posting by Michael Gillum) than psychology.  Presentiment might be a
> term Milton studies could adopt in order to describe lyric
> foreshadowing and to distinguish this from narrative foreshadowing.
> Right, in my reading, this kind of presentiment would be rhetorical and
> would involve echoes of tropes as well as etymological puns.
>
> 3. There are aspects of Heidegger (notably "thrownness") that might
> provide interesting counterparts to what you describe as the suddenness
> of Kierkegaardian falling.  Also, Derrida on Heidegger heightens our
> awareness of the state of always already having fallen, etc.  The
> distinction between early and late Heidegger on the notion of dwelling
> also seems relevant for the Expulsion - I am thinking of "Building,
> Dwelling, Thinking" in its departure from B&T.
>
> Warm regards to all.  I'm looking forward to continuing these
> discussions in person in London and online in the ensuing months.
> Alice
>
> On Jun 27, 2008, at 8:16 PM, James Rovira wrote:
>
>> Jim W -- do you really believe that once we call something a poem all
>> rules are off and there's nothing left to do but admire it?  I don't
>> buy this, and don't think Milton did either -- esp. since he seemed to
>> take his own theology very seriously, and was very aware that he was
>> responding to more than one Christian tradition.  For that matter,
>> poetry written without limitations winds up meaning nothing at all.
>> The difference between poetry and theology is poetry's integration of
>> the conceptual (when it is present) with the emotional and
>> psychological, while theological writing tends to remain on the
>> conceptual level.  I say this recognizing, of course, that there's a
>> range of theological writing out there, but in general the more
>> precise and conceptual the theological writing is, the less emotional
>> it is.
>>
>> To me, the question of motivation (psychology) has never been lost in
>> this discussion.  I think my main disagreement with Alice would be (I
>> think, if I'm understanding her properly) a dissociation of language
>> from psychology.  Returning to Kierkegaard, one of the insights
>> Kierkegaard lends to us is that language in part constitutes our
>> psychology, our choice of language therefore being highly significant.
>>  Through the process of reflection we therefore create ourselves in
>> the sense that we reconstitute our given selves.
>>
>> So yes, absolutely, Michael, I agree:  Milton did have to motivate his
>> characters.  Once we accept this as a given, how we understand these
>> motivations and talk about them becomes the issue.
>>
>> After my last post I considered the idea of "falling" and realized
>> there's an equivalent to the idea of "falling" in Kierkegaard's
>> Concept of Anxiety.   But, to start, K's conception of the innocent
>> individual is that s/he remains innocent until the moment of sin, so
>> that the transition from innocence to sinfulness is a leap, not a
>> gradual progression.  Losing your innocence is like losing your
>> virginity: you have it or you don't.  Or being innocent is like being
>> pregnant: you are or you aren't.  This is a very serious ground rule
>> in Kierkegaard's thinking.  We never know that we -are- innocent, in
>> fact.  We are only aware of innocence once we have lost it.  We can
>> only know we -were- innocent.
>>
>> K does acknowledge that sinfulness in our external environment can so
>> overwhelm us that we feel sinful ourselves, but he emphasizes that
>> this is very different from our own first act of sin.  He also says
>> this experience can motivate us to sin -- it can make sin seem
>> inevitable, and we become so anxious about sin that we sin.  But the
>> feeling itself is not sin.
>>
>> Another claim K makes -- and the parallel to the notion of "falling"
>> is found here -- is that anxiety is a presentiment of the state we
>> will be in after we make the leap into sinfulness, but that we
>> experience this presentiment before we make the leap into sinfulness.
>> So anxiety mimics a postlapsarian psychology in a prelapsarian mind.
>> This constitutes a very clever solution to the problem of maintaining
>> innocence but still demonstrating some characteristics of a fallen
>> psychology while still being innocent.
>>
>> The greatest weakness of K's solution is, perhaps, that it is too
>> clever.  Its strong point is acknowledging that our own acts following
>> from specific decisions are far more significant than any emotional
>> state prior to the act, taking our actions and decisions seriously,
>> and also confining sin to the act.  At any rate, K's description of
>> anxiety at this point does serve as a plausible explanation of what we
>> read as the state of "falling" in Adam and Eve.
>>
>> The problem I have with the descriptions of Adam and Eve's psychology
>> in recent posts is that I don't see a significant distinction between
>> Adam and Eve's prelapsarian psychology and that of the Early Modern
>> Christian.  However, this may very well be Milton's intent and, dare I
>> say it, perhaps not inconsistent with Protestant theology of his own
>> day.   I came in expecting an innocent psychology to be very different
>> from our own.  Perhaps the real problem is that my expectations are
>> wrong.
>>
>> Jim R
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