[Milton-L] Abdiel

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Tue Jun 24 12:49:31 EDT 2008

I'm happy to jump back into the poetry, especially by way of Fallon's book,
which provides a good part of the inspiration for my IMS9 paper. He can
correct me if I'm wrong here, but my sense is that he would agree that
Abdiel is part of a "fractured and self-critical" Miltonic representation.
Here's a relevant passage from the book:
"A balanced self-understanding on Milton's part would place him between
Abdiel and Satan, neither as heroically virtuous as the one nor as degraded
as the other" (206).

On the other hand, if I understand Coiro correctly (I haven't read the
review yet), she's questioning the unproblematic identification of Abdiel
with virtue. I'll have more to say about this in London, but part of
Milton's challenge in using PL to represent himself (if we grant the
premise) is accounting for the Restoration while exculpating his pre-1660
self of mistaken thinking (not necessarily the what, but the when). Thus,
admire Fallon's book though I do, I think Coiro's on to something if she's
urging a more nuanced look at the idea of "the one just man." Perhaps we,
Areopagitica-like, have to form a composite out of pieces from the various
such figures Milton gives us (including autobiographical moments in the
prose) rather than taking any particular one as entirely representative.

I'll take a look at the review first chance I get; thanks for starting the

Jason A. Kerr

On Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 11:31 AM, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:

> Not much discussion of Milton's poetry here lately. What are people's
> reactions to these points?
> "Abdiel is a decidedly mixed character—he did follow Satan initially; he is
> capable of an interior monologue, a mark of fallen subjectivity; and he is
> more zealous than brilliant in his argument with his fallen general. If
> there is Miltonic representation here it is fractured and self-critical."
> --Ann Baynes Coiro, review of Stephen Fallon's new book in latest MQ.
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The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

—Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"
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