[Milton-L] to James Rovira re irony

Alice Crawford Berghof aberghof at uci.edu
Tue Jun 24 23:39:18 EDT 2008


Thank you for a thought-provoking analysis of Milton and Kierkegaard!
Longer response off-list.  Thank you for bringing to mind the 
possibility of irony and self-defining choices in Milton.  It seems to 
me that Kierkegaardian irony would work as a lens through which to 
examine rhetoric rather than personality.  Rhetorical subjectivity is 
what I meant.  I do not think Kierkegaard is as useful for Milton in 
terms of the characters' personalities as he would be in terms of plot 
and genre.  The most important kinds of irony in PL are dramatic and 
verbal, so I think I would start there.  The reflective stage is of 
interest given the present discussion about internal monologue.  The 
image of Satan "squat like a toad... at the ear of Eve," might 
complicate our ideas about her dream stage.
Alice Berghof


On Jun 24, 2008, at 7:43 PM, James Rovira wrote:

> Depends upon the use of irony -- I don't think, in Kierkegaard, that
> an individual has developed inwardness or subjectivity until after the
> transition to the ethical sphere, which would mean after one has
> sinned.  The ironic personality is still an aesthetic personality so
> has not made conscious, self-defining choices -- irony exists
> precisely for the purpose of avoiding self-defining choices.  One
> could say irony itself is a self-defining choice, but one can have an
> ironic stance even towards one's own irony, adopting a mock
> seriosuness.  The ethical personality may wear irony as his/her
> incognito, but is ultimately very serious.  Religious personalities
> can use irony as a tool but it in no way represents a defining
> characteristic.
>
> Concept of Anxiety seems to associate Adam and Eve with the
> personality described in Either/Or I as immediate pole of the
> aesthetic sphere -- three stages of desire here: dreaming, seeking,
> and desiring.  I get the impression that Milton's Adam and Eve can be
> read as moving through these three stages of desire, then (perhaps)
> skipping the reflective pole of the aesthetic sphere and leaping right
> into sin and the ethical sphere.  Hard to say -- once a character
> emphasizes or is characterized by language use they have become
> reflective.
>
> Jim R
>
> On Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 9:24 PM, Alice Crawford Berghof
> <aberghof at uci.edu> wrote:
>> I think we can consider Adam and Eve fully developed subjectivities, 
>> even in
>> a Kierkegaardian sense, and equally imbued with will, but reflecting 
>> two
>> different rhetorical registers of motivation for failing to align 
>> their
>> wills with God's.  These registers can be set against Satan's in 
>> terms if
>> Kierkegaardian irony.  Eve's motivation emerges in the form of 
>> prosopopoeia
>> in the present moment (the fruit solicits her longing eye - this is 
>> from
>> memory...), Adam's in proleptic, lyric lament before the fact.  Back 
>> to my
>> fallen powerpoint.  Hope to meet you in London.
>> Alice Berghof
>>
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