[Milton-L] Abdiel, reflection, etc.
Horace Jeffery Hodges
jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 25 21:05:12 EDT 2008
Ann Coiro states:
"What Abdiel has done is experience evil, grapple with it, and walk away. But he will always be different from all the other angels in heaven."
Jeffery Hodges asks:
In what sense does Abdiel 'experience' evil? I ask because I've written about the meaning the "experience" of evil in the fall of the rebel angels and in the fall of Adam and Eve, and the experience of evil within oneself is crucial to an understanding of what is meant in Paradise Lost 11.85 by the phrase "To know both good and evil."
Here is the abstract:
"Like One of Us: Milton's God and Fallen Man"
The paper analyzes God's announcement to the heavenly assembly in Paradise Lost 11.84-85, which begins with these puzzling words: "O sons, like one of us man is become / To know both good and evil." The words are puzzling because prelapsarian Adam and Eve already knew the difference between good and evil. The paper's argument turns on the ambiguity of the word "knowledge," which can be either conceptual or experiential. Thomas Blackburn noted this distinction in a 1971 article, but his argument is flawed in its
conclusion that Adam and Eve come to share the experiential knowledge of evil that the faithful angels have from their fight against the fallen angels. Blackburn's argument fails because the faithful angels never experience evil within themselves. Rather, Adam and Eve come to share experiential knowledge of evil with the fallen angels, who have already experienced evil within themselves. God's words about man in 11.84-85 coming to be "like
one of us" thus refer to Satan (and his minions), not to the faithful angels. That a fallen Adam and Eve are like Satan should not be especially surprising, but this reinterpretation of Genesis 3:22 is nonetheless rather bold, perhaps even unprecedented in the
This paper is actually online . . . if one can access it from outside Korea:
Technically speaking, the paper is online whether one can access it or not, but you know what I mean.
--- On Wed, 6/25/08, ann coiro <annbaynes.coiro at gmail.com> wrote:
From: ann coiro <annbaynes.coiro at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel, reflection, etc.
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, June 25, 2008, 6:46 PM
I think Abdiel has been disfigured by the kind of moralizing you
present here. I am arguing that we see how really interesting he is.
Sloppy reading--Abdiel clearly has an interior monologue; he
"explores' his "undaunted heart"; he "ponders"
(see VI, 113; 127).
Whether you approve or not, Milton shows his characters in interior
reflection only after they have grappled with evil. I have found the
discussion on this list about what it means to be fallen fascinating.
I think Jason Kerr's ideas about Milton's complicated
self-presentation in Book XII sound exactly right. What Abdiel has
done is experience evil, grapple with it, and walk away. But he will
always be different from all the other angels in heaven. And I stand
by my description of his argument with Satan--he can't stand up to him
logically. It is a fascinating exchange.
As to adopting other critics blindly--I have learned to be deeply
respectful of all the people who have written on Milton. I have
learned from them, I'm grateful, and I stand on my own.
On Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 7:10 PM, richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
> This is a reply to Michael Gillum's initial posting.
> First, I congratulate him for getting the Milton list
> actually to talk about the poetry.
> As to the statements by Ann, they seem to me to fall into the
> kind of moralizing that disfigures much Milton (and other)
> criticism. The mode, unfortunately, is very familiar, and it
> is not surprising (again, unfortunately) that she adopts it,
> but, like so much of such moralizing, the claims involved are
> based on sloppy reading and unexamined assertions.
> Sloppy reading: "he [Abdiel]did follow Satan initially."
> This is true, but does not in any sense cast negative light
> on Abdiel's character. Abdiel only followed Satan under the
> impression that Satan was going to the North "there to
> receive / Fit entertainment to receive our King / The great
> Messiah" (V.689-91). This is repeated at V.768-9,
> "[Satan]Pretending [that his troops were] so commanded to
> consult / About the great reception of thir King." As soon
> as Satan reveals his actual motives -- to rebel against the
> new command of adoration ("Knee-tribute") imposed on the
> angels -- Abdiel protests. He speaks up in a fury of
> righteous indignation. I have no idea what "he is more
> zealous than brilliant" is supposed to mean. It seems pretty
> clear that Milton intends Abdiel to be making good points
> here (whether we have to agree is a different matter). But
> worst of all is the premise that "an interior monologue [is]
> a mark of fallen subjectivity." No argument for this is
> given. It is clearly simply adopted, without question, from
> other critics. How "interior monologue" is even involved
> here, since Abdiel is presented as speaking out, is one
> question, but much more important is why Milton should be
> imagined to have thought that the capacity for reflection is
> fallen. This is quite an astonishing claim. God seems to
> encourage such a capacity in Adam, as does Raphael. To think
> that Milton imagined innocence as devoid of the capacity for
> reflection is to fall into silly stuff along the "felix
> culpa" lines (psychologically). Milton's amazing achievement
> is to have presented unfallen life as the fullest -- most
> sensually and sexually enjoyable, noble, and intellectually
> alive -- form of human life (given that initially there are
> only two people involved) that he can imagine. The power of
> the poem, as its title asserts, is in its evocation of what
> we have lost. Moralizing about sin before the fall is to
> miss the daring and originality and beauty of what Milton has
> done. Or so I think. (I apologize to anyone who has already
> said any or all of this.)
> Richard Strier
> Department of English
> University of Chicago
> 1115 East 58th Street
> Chicago, IL 60637
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> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
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