[Milton-L] Milton, sin and treason

Alice Crawford Berghof aberghof at uci.edu
Fri Jun 27 19:44:31 EDT 2008

A quick question: would anyone like to discuss, on or off-list, the 
ways in which Milton departs from Augustine's definition of sin?  In my 
view, the list's recent debate over treason casts Milton in a decidedly 
Augustinian light.  Judith Anderson's paraphrase regarding privation, 
below, is quintessential Augustine.  Augustine's notion of evil as the 
turn away from God, heavily influenced by such articulations in the 
Proverbs, is here in the below posting as well - in the notion of 
deviation.  Given that the turn has to be deliberate, Carol Barton's 
interpretation would come into play here.  A final thought: as a coda 
to the discussion of treason, I am thinking more broadly of Milton's 
influence on early modern English legal theory in terms of the 
punishable implications of the deliberate intention to transgress, 
something that has contemporary relevance.

On Jun 27, 2008, at 3:58 PM, Judith H. Anderson wrote:

> Please forgive my being out of immediate sequence, but I have 
> hesitated to inject the following, for your consideration, into the 
> previous interesting discussion of Milton's conception of sin. I have 
> assumed that someone else would do so, but here it is:
> In Christian Doctrine, Milton defines evil--that is, sin--as an 
> oblique or perverse action, which can include words, thoughts, or even 
> the omission of good action. Privation is the resulting punishment of 
> evil, or sin, in Milton's view. Milton, Christian Doctrine, in 
> Complete Prose Works, VI, ed. Maurice Kelley, trans. John Carey (New 
> Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973), 388991, here 391 (I.xi). In 
> De Doctrina Christiana, the Latin reads, "sola eius [i.e., actionis] 
> obliquitas sive anomalia a legis norma proprie mala est": The Works of 
> John Milton, XIV-XVII, ed. James Holly Hanford and Waldo Hilary Dunn, 
> trans. Charles R. Sumner (New York: Columbia University Press, 1933), 
> XV, 198. Carey's translation (the more accurate one in this instance) 
> reads, "it is only its [the action's] misdirection or deviation from 
> the set course of law which can properly be called evil" (391).
> Judith
> _________________________
> Judith H. Anderson
> Chancellor's Professor
> Department of English
> Indiana University
> 1020 E. Kirkwood Avenue
> Bloomington, IN 47405-7103
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