[Milton-L] Re: RE: Best Resource on Satan as Hero (Noam Flinker)

Evan Labuzetta evanlabuzetta at gmail.com
Wed Apr 15 12:02:09 EDT 2009

Dear Tony (and anyone else interested),

I'd second (or third) Noam Flinker's recommendation of Neil Forsyth's
book (I haven't yet been able to read Nancy Rosenfeld's), but also add
to Carol Barton's note of caution for your student.  The idea of a
"hero" is itself very slippery, and near-contemporaries like Dryden
who wrote of Satan as the "hero" of PL were drawing on a tradition
that made a sharp distinction between a character's narrative function
(as 'hero' or 'victor') and his (its) authority as a moral exemplar.
Roger Sharrock makes this point in “Godwin on Milton’s Satan” Notes
and Queries new series 9 (1962), p.463-5, backing up C.S. Lewis in his
Preface to PL, p.94.

At the risk of oversimplifying, there are at least several senses in
which 'hero' can be used with respect to Satan - this Drydenesque
focus on the character's powerful role in the narrative, a Blakean
inversion of traditional valuations attached to God and Satan (in
which Satan's heroism stems from his being a vital part in a cosmic
duality), or a more nebulous Romantic notion that Satan is a
rebellious hero because he is the champion in opposing ontologically
wicked characteristics of a Christian God.  That's leaving aside any
sort of nihilistic embrace of Satan in his original role as destroyer
and opposer, and I'm sure I'm leaving out some others as well.

If your student is focusing on the lead-up to Milton and the concepts
of Satan that were current at the time, a good place to start is
Nathan Johnstone's recent book "The Devil and Demonism in Early Modern

If anyone is interested in more details or discussion, please contact
me off-list and I'll pull some more citations out of my thesis

All the best,

> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 10:19:14 -0700
> From: Noam Flinker <flinker at berkeley.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] RE: Best Resource on Satan as Hero
> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Message-ID: <2AB14553-0CA2-4E3E-8C8C-AF2E45B23088 at berkeley.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> You might start with Neil Forsyth's The satanic epic Princeton,
> N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2003. Another fascinating recent
> book is Nancy Rosenfeld's The human Satan in seventeenth-century
> English literature : from Milton to Rochester (Ashgate, 2008).
> Noam Flinker
> On Apr 14, 2009, at 9:40 AM, Tony Demarest wrote:
>> Dear List Members-
>> At our college, we require a senior research presentation in every
>> A&S major- since I am the college's "resident
>> medievalist" (probably pertains more to age than scholarship), I
>> usually have students who wish to research Arthurian Romance or
>> Chaucer. I have taught Milton twice in the past four years (I
>> retired from secondary school administration in 2002)- and have
>> been receiving more requests to work on Paradise Lost. At first,
>> the topics reflected my interests- i.e. structure of Miltonic
>> similes, but then I received requests for reflections on Eve's
>> culpability, Satan as "hero," etc.
>> Just yesterday, a student asked if I would mentor her through a
>> study of Satan as a more heroic figure than God. This from a young
>> woman attending a Catholic college- of course, I readily agreed. My
>> dilemma: I have most of the mainstream sources (Fish, Lewis,
>> Nicholson, etc.) but I would like newer links- my last academic
>> connection with Milton studies was in 1970, and as a member of this
>> list, I am almost ashamed about what I do not know. But since my
>> position is "medieval," I carry courses from HEL to Milton- and
>> occasionally delve into my favorites- Walcott and Heaney; so I am
>> truly stretched, and would like to have your recommendations for
>> further modern study in this aspect. What's new on Satan?
>> As always, many thanks for your help-
>> Tony

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