[Milton-L] RE: Don't Give Up Tony D!

Hannibal Hamlin hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
Tue Apr 14 12:33:23 EDT 2009


This is a lovely response!

Of course, Nigel Smith is really to blame -- or rather his publisher -- for
stirring up this sort of Milton vs. Shakespeare business. It reminds me of
arguments I used to have with my little brother about whether Superman could
beat the Hulk, or Spiderman, or Mighty Mouse, whatever. Northrop Frye wrote
somewhere, perhaps in the *Anatomy*, that we all naturally make value
judgments about which writers are greater than others, but that this is not
the proper business of literary criticism. I also recall a professor telling
me as an undergraduate that one of the great things about reading literature
was that you didn't have to decide between Swift or Pope, Shakespeare or
Milton; you can read and enjoy them all. Finally (back to Frye again),
critical pronouncements about great writers have a habit of boomeranging on
the pronouncers. Sam Johnson or T.S. Eliot can savage Milton, but it just
makes them look like idiots. Same goes for Voltaire on Shakespeare. And if
such remarks have this effect on Johnson, Eliot, and Voltaire, we ordinary
critics had best watch out.

Hannibal


On 4/14/09, Watt, James <jwatt at butler.edu> wrote:
>
> Ah dear Tony.  Please do not give up on the Milton list.  I go for weeks
> without finding anything interesting; like you, probably, every morning I
> have to go through three or four list serves to see what's cooking.  The
> first five or ten minutes are devoted to deleting things unread.  But every
> time I think about discontinuing the Milton list, another great thread will
> appear and I will find myself storing several items for future use that I
> would never have, in the ordinary course of reviewing the new scholarship
> and browsing in the NY & London Reviews, found.  the beauty of the internet
> is that all of God's infinitely variable creations are allowed to rub
> shoulders in a sort of angelic (as in Milton's Angelology) choir.  Remember,
> Nature loves weeds, philosophers are always trying to create gardens without
> them.  thank God for both.
>
> jim watt
> ________________________________________
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Tony Demarest [
> tonydemarest at hotmail.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 11:15 AM
> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
> Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
>
> I should not reply to this, but having taught courses in Shakespeare,
> Milton, and Chaucer (a small college expands its definitions of "medieval"),
> I will say this thread is inane at best, boorish at worst. All this
> pseudo-assessing of "greatness" just adds more wattle to Harold Bloom's
> underchin and does nobody any good. The older a reader gets, the more open
> to greatness and brilliance his/her mind becomes. For some reason, I thought
> competition went out with Petrarch.
> And Shakespeare not a poet- indeed.
>
> Tony
>
> ________________________________
> Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 08:05:37 -0400
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
> From: junkopardner at comcast.net
> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>
> Thank you Marlene.
>
> But Shakespeare *wasn’t* a poet. Not that it’s a “bad” thing, but he was a
> playwright.
>
> Milton...now that’s a poet. And I will deny Shakespeare as a poet till the
> day I die, unless a real poet shows me something I missed.
>
> “I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
> I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
> Each time I find myself layin' flat on my face
> I just pick myself up and get back in the race.”
>
> (Thank you Frank.)
>
> And yes, I say Shalom and mean it, but Shakespeare isn’t going to dig
> himself out of his grave and write poetry either way.
>
> And BTW, Keats, Chaucer and Pope couldn’t catch Milton if you dug them all
> up now and gave them a 200 year head start. You see, time doesn’t exist.
>
> And it sure as hell ain’t ever gonna change the facts.
>
> Peace, Love, and Billy Jack,
>
>
> J
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On 4/14/09 6:40 AM, "Marlene Edelstein" <malkaruth2000 at yahoo.co.uk<
> http://yahoo.co.uk>> wrote:
>
> Shalom? Shalom? If it's peace and harmony you're after don't go about
> calling Shakespeare a one-trick pony and denying that he's a poet. Why the
> need to establish a hierarchy of the greatest? My love of poetry and
> language was nurtured by by both Shakespeare and Milton (and Keats, Chaucer
> and Pope, by the way); returning to either is a rebirth.
>
>              Marlene R. Edelstein
>
>
>
> believe everything, believe nothing
>
> --- On Tue, 14/4/09, jonnyangel <junkopardner at comcast.net<
> http://comcast.net>> wrote:
>
> From: jonnyangel <junkopardner at comcast.net<http://comcast.net>>
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu<
> http://lists.richmond.edu>>
> Date: Tuesday, 14 April, 2009, 10:55 AM
>
> Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost Yes, Yes, and Yes. PL is the greatest work
> of literature in the “English” Language; how could it not be? And you really
> can’t compare Shakespeare to Milton (or vice versa), because Bill was a
> playwright and John was (first and foremost) a poet. But you you can compare
> them with regard to the fact that both were writer’s, and both wrote in the
> English language. Shakespeare was a phenomenal verbal linguist, and you
> can’t deny that. But Milton was a poet (which is something Shakespeare
> simply wasn’t), AND Milton could also handle an epic narrative, multiple
> characters, temporal space, and the single largest topic that exists:
> Man/Woman, Heaven/Hell, God/Satan, and all of the binaries of life’s
> Black/White morality forming grey areas that are still being sought, fought,
> and argued over in the 21st century.
>
> Look, when it comes to the heavyweights, whether it’s Milton/Shakespeare or
> Frazier/Ali, it’s all subjective. Is Godzilla “greater” than King Kong? Is
> an electrolyte imbalance “greater” than cancer? They can (and often will)
> take you to the same place at the end of the day.
>
> But if I could be fortunate enough to have an escort to that place, I hope
> Milton is my escort.
>
> Shakespeare, for all of his brilliance, was a one trick pony. Milton was a
> jack of many trades, and the master of most of them.
>
> Even though you can argue someone till you’re blue in the face that PL is
> the greatest work of English Literature ever written, you will still get
> arguments to the contrary – but there are other factors/variables in the
> equation to be considered.
>
> Shakespeare carved out his slice of the pie, and Milton served up the rest.
>
> Shalom,
>
> Jonathan B. Colburn
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On 4/14/09 12:22 AM, "Alan Rudrum" <alanrudrum at gmail.com<http://gmail.com>>
> wrote:
>
> the greatest single work of literature in the English language, as was
> stated on this list recently?
>
> Certainly it might be argued that it is; but when I raised the question
> with the scholar nearest to hand, we said simultaneously "What about King
> Lear?"
>
> And then there is Wordsworth's Prelude, which begins with a meaningful echo
> of Samson Agonistes, - not every Milton scholar of my acquaintance managed
> to see this for himself,- and speaks at least as well as Paradise Lost to
> the concerns of many people one would hesitate to condemn as stupid.
>
> Alan Rudrum
>
>
>
>
>
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-- 
Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University
Burkhardt Fellow,
The Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
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