[Milton-L] Kim Maxwell re sins

Alice Crawford Berghof aberghof at uci.edu
Sun Jul 6 18:20:32 EDT 2008


I find Kim Maxwell's posting intriguing and am responding to a small 
part of it here.  I, too, am interested in what Adam, Eve and Satan 
know after the Fall.  (Side question: What do people on the list think 
of the difference between the reader imagined as a linguistic function 
in reception theory, versus the reader imagined as aligned with Adam 
and Eve?  In my view, Kim Maxwell's posting requires a response that 
qualifies the latter.)

Kim Maxwell:
"We can no longer be trusted (God’s final words in the poem are “man 
once more to delude”) because we have lost whatever power we may have 
once had to reason our way to proper action.  In Book III God seems to 
say that he will select some for redemption by grace alone." 

My response:
The prolepsis of foreknowledge is addressed in III.  Human temporality 
cannot work as a lens through which to describe predestination.  
However, Milton's argument does not rest on predestination.  (Although 
its title is elusive, Victoria Silver's Imperfect Sense is great on 
this.)

Kim Maxwell's next challenging point:
"For the rest he will “clear their senses dark” and install his umpire  
conscience to offer them a new opportunity to earn safe arrival.  But 
neither God nor the poem suggests a means by which an individual may 
know what group he or she is in, or what their senses cleared will 
actually be capable of seeing, or what positive or negative human 
actions constitute obedience." 

My responses:
The (first posting): after the Fall, "proper action", and (this post) 
"obedience" would begin with repentance.  In your first posting, the 
word "we" is a problem given that it matters a great deal that Adam and 
Eve lived before the resurrection.  They are not "we," etc.  Even so, 
one should distinguish between failed and successful repentance.  Satan 
claims he cannot repent:
But say I could repent and could obtain
By act of grace my former state; how soon
Would highth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay
What feigned submission [see Fowler's note] swore; ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.  (IV.93-97)

Adam, and Eve, in direct contrast:
		... forthwith to the place
Repairing where he judged them prostrate fell [in contrast with etym of 
submission]
Before him reverent, and both confessed
Humbly their faults, and pardon begged, with tears
Watering the ground [contrast with highth], and with their sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek.  (X.1099-end)

Book XI, esp the descrip of prayers as sighs, is important, too.  
Milton gives the reader and, indirectly, Adam and Eve a connection to 
the Son of God far before the resurrection smoothes the path of 
repentance.  Your point may obtain in a limited way in the procession 
of OT and NT events leading from Adam to Christ, but after that the 
point is less important, I believe.  What is your take on the status of 
Adam's knowledge of the resurrection?

(A few small notes in response to other aspects of your posting: a 
previous posting of mine regarding John Leonard suggested that after 
Eve's fall Adam could've sacrificed himself in a Christlike way.  
Another previous posting of mine, fallen by the wayside, had to do with 
prayer, crucial after the Fall.)
Jet lagged but still mesmerized by the Milton list disputatio,
Alice




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