[Milton-L] Re: unfallen psychology

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Tue Jul 1 16:46:39 EDT 2008

Richard, forgive me, I think for myself.   If we accept at face value
the Christian idea of "fallenness," there's still a great deal of
debate about whether or not it's possible to represent unfallen
language in a postlapsarian world.  The question pertains especially
to Diane's quotation from Christian Doctrine: when Milton talks about
regeneration, does he mean a process we undergo throughout our lives,
or does he mean a process we could conceivably complete in this
lifetime, or does he mean a process that is automatically completed
upon the Christian's regeneration by the Spirit?   Christian belief
encompasses all these options -- I'm curious where Milton placed
himself.  It's unclear to me from the quotation. The question is not
whether or not Milton could represent an unfallen language, I suppose,
but whether or not Milton believed that he could.

Also, if we're going to think like literalists, Milton was in fact
writing in 17thC English, which is a fallen language, not in the
language of Adam and Eve, which is lost to us (unless you're a very
conservative Jew or Christian, in which case you believe it was
Hebrew).  Can unfallen thought be represented in a language developed
after the fall?  The question I keep returning to is, Was Blake really
concerned with representing an unfallen subjectivity, or was he
largely concerned with representing a Christian subjectivity in a
specific context?  Or did he not see a difference between the two?

Just to be clear about myself: my field is English Romanticism and my
dissertation was on Blake and Kierkegaard, not Milton.  I don't
consider myself a Miltonist and have never claimed to be devoted to
Milton.  I consider myself a Romanticist, but in my opinion all
Romanticists have an obligation to read and understand Milton,
especially those working in Blake.  I'm currently working on turning
my dissertation into a book: my next chapter will be on the Four Zoas,
then on Blake's Milton, then on Jerusalem.  My beginning point is that
the messes Blake kept running into when writing creation stories such
as The [First] Book of Urizen and The Four Zoas could not be resolved
until Blake addressed the role of the artist and his relationship to
his influences in Milton.  So once I get to writing about Blake's
Milton I'll return to Milton himself in more depth.

Jim R

On Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 12:56 PM, richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu> wrote:
> To say that "Milton could not conceive of an unfallen human
> psychology, or represent it in language" seems to me to be
> EXACTLY wrong, and to thoroughly underestimate the
> astonishing achievement of the most original parts of PL
> (namely, the presentation of human life before the Fall).
> What a pity that someone devoted to Milton should think this.
> RS
> Richard Strier

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