[Milton-L] Re: unfallen psychology

richard strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Tue Jul 1 18:07:22 EDT 2008


To reply briefly to Jim Rovira (though others, of course, 
should do so as well):

I think that Milton believed that regeneration could be 
complete in our lives.  I think that not only was he not a 
Calvinist, but that he was pretty close to being a Pelagian 
(this ought to get another string going!).  Arminianism, as I 
understand it, was a way of getting the benefits of classical 
ethics into a system with a Calvinist vocabulary.

Re Milton and what English could do, I think the question was 
what he thought poetry could do.  And I think he had a VERY 
high opinion of this (and of his own capacities with regard 
to it).  And I think that, in relation to Eden, he was right 
to have this opinion of himself.  (I've written at length 
about why I think M's vision of/ presentation of Eden is much 
superior, morally and well as poetically, to his vision of 
heaven.)

As to "Was Blake really concerned with representing an 
unfallen subjectivity, or was he largely concerned with 
representing a Christian subjectivity in a specific context," 
I think you've answered the question in adding, "Or did he 
not see a difference between the two?"  As Mrs. Blake said, 
William spent much of his time in heaven.

---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2008 16:46:39 -0400
>From: "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com>  
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: unfallen psychology  
>To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-
l at lists.richmond.edu>
>
&gt;Richard, forgive me, I think for myself.   If we accept 
at face value
&gt;the Christian idea of "fallenness," there's still a great 
deal of
&gt;debate about whether or not it's possible to represent 
unfallen
&gt;language in a postlapsarian world.  The question pertains 
especially
&gt;to Diane's quotation from Christian Doctrine: when Milton 
talks about
&gt;regeneration, does he mean a process we undergo 
throughout our lives,
&gt;or does he mean a process we could conceivably complete 
in this
&gt;lifetime, or does he mean a process that is automatically 
completed
&gt;upon the Christian's regeneration by the Spirit?   
Christian belief
&gt;encompasses all these options -- I'm curious where Milton 
placed
&gt;himself.  It's unclear to me from the quotation. The 
question is not
&gt;whether or not Milton could represent an unfallen 
language, I suppose,
&gt;but whether or not Milton believed that he could.
&gt;
&gt;Also, if we're going to think like literalists, Milton 
was in fact
&gt;writing in 17thC English, which is a fallen language, not 
in the
&gt;language of Adam and Eve, which is lost to us (unless 
you're a very
&gt;conservative Jew or Christian, in which case you believe 
it was
&gt;Hebrew).  Can unfallen thought be represented in a 
language developed
&gt;after the fall?  The question I keep returning to is, Was 
Blake really
&gt;concerned with representing an unfallen subjectivity, or 
was he
&gt;largely concerned with representing a Christian 
subjectivity in a
&gt;specific context?  Or did he not see a difference between 
the two?
&gt;
&gt;Just to be clear about myself: my field is English 
Romanticism and my
&gt;dissertation was on Blake and Kierkegaard, not Milton.  I 
don't
&gt;consider myself a Miltonist and have never claimed to be 
devoted to
&gt;Milton.  I consider myself a Romanticist, but in my 
opinion all
&gt;Romanticists have an obligation to read and understand 
Milton,
&gt;especially those working in Blake.  I'm currently working 
on turning
&gt;my dissertation into a book: my next chapter will be on 
the Four Zoas,
&gt;then on Blake's Milton, then on Jerusalem.  My beginning 
point is that
&gt;the messes Blake kept running into when writing creation 
stories such
&gt;as The [First] Book of Urizen and The Four Zoas could not 
be resolved
&gt;until Blake addressed the role of the artist and his 
relationship to
&gt;his influences in Milton.  So once I get to writing about 
Blake's
&gt;Milton I'll return to Milton himself in more depth.
&gt;
&gt;Jim R
&gt;
&gt;On Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 12:56 PM, richard strier &
lt;rastrier at uchicago.edu&gt; wrote:
&gt;&gt; To say that "Milton could not conceive of an 
unfallen human
&gt;&gt; psychology, or represent it in language" seems to me 
to be
&gt;&gt; EXACTLY wrong, and to thoroughly underestimate the
&gt;&gt; astonishing achievement of the most original parts 
of PL
&gt;&gt; (namely, the presentation of human life before the 
Fall).
&gt;&gt; What a pity that someone devoted to Milton should 
think this.
&gt;&gt;
&gt;&gt; RS
&gt;&gt;
&gt;&gt;
&gt;&gt; Richard Strier
&gt;&gt;
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Richard Strier
Department of English
University of Chicago
1115 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637


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