[Milton-L] Dr. Gorman's question about moral judgments

Marlene Edelstein malkaruth2000 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Apr 16 06:03:39 EDT 2009


"Even Buddhists, that is, will find pleasure and profit in a reading of
Milton's poem; even as Christians can benefit from considering Buddhist
scripture and Zen Koans".
Jim Watt  

strange how many of the most finest (most perceptive, most original, most scholarly) commentators on Paradise Lost, and of Milton's greatest fans, are Jews .... 

believe everything, believe nothing

--- On Wed, 15/4/09, Watt, James <jwatt at butler.edu> wrote:

From: Watt, James <jwatt at butler.edu>
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Dr. Gorman's question about moral judgments
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, 11:23 PM

Dear Alan: please remind your dean that there is no such thing as 'value-free' knowledge (as the simplest test; mathematics easily demonstrates) even as there is also no such thing as 'knowledge-free' value (as just about a week's worth of attending to this list will adequately demonstrate.  There IS, however a source for the comforting notion that we could have these things.  And Paradise Lost is, among other things, an interesting investigation of that source. 
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Alan Rudrum [alanrudrum at gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 4:57 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] Dr. Gorman's question about moral judgments

It was from the standpoint of ethical criticism that two of us said simultaneously, "What about King Lear?" and I suggested the importance of Wordsworth's Prelude.  So, moral judgments certainly come into it.  I am at present planning a course on ethical criticism that I may well not be given the opportunity to teach.

Alan Rudrum

www.sfu.ca/~rudrum<http://www.sfu.ca/~rudrum>

On Wed, Apr 15, 2009 at 12:32 PM, Dr. Larry Gorman <larry at eastwest.edu<mailto:larry at eastwest.edu>> wrote:
Isn't there a difference between making moral judgments and deciding if
Paradise Lost is better than King Lear?

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>] On Behalf Of Gregory
Machacek
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 2:21 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost the greatest work?

Alan Rudrum asked:  Is Paradise Lost the greatest single work of
literature
in the English language?  (He asked it across the subject line and into
the
message of his original post)

Most respondents (I cited some in my first reply) indicated that such
questions were "inane" or dismissed them as being the equivalent of
arguing
whether Superman could beat the Hulk, or jocularly proposed that the
next
MLA involve a March madness style tournament (I think I might enjoy such
an
MLA more than most that I've attended).

Observing what struck me as a smug consensus that such questions are not
worthwhile (symptomatic, I think, of assumptions governing literary
criticism under its present dominant paradigm and of contemporary
sensibilities generally), I asked if Milton would share our own age's
reluctance to render literary judgments.

Jim Rovira replied that it might make sense to make comparisons between
Milton and Danielle Steele, but not between Milton and Shakespeare.
(It's
true that the original question about works has sometimes slipped into a
question of authors rather than of works and that everything has been
colored by johnny angel's disvaluing of Shakespeare).

When I asked how comparisons between Milton and Shakespeare are
different
in kind from comparisons between Milton and Steele (carelessly slipping,
myself, into the author-author comparison), he replied

"I frankly can't believe I was asked this question?"

It's precisely the unbelivability of such questions (under the reigning
critical paradigm) that intrigues me.

Why can't we ask such questions?  Why do they seem "inane" or
"meaningless"?

And I would pair that with my other question.  Doesn't Milton ask us to
make such judgments?  (Moreover, isn't the content of Paradise Lost very
much concerned with characters having to make precisely such difficult
judgments?)  And if Milton does ask us to do so, and we decline, are we
missing something important in our experience of his epic?

Rushing to class.  Wish I had more time.  But this has grown long enough
in
any case.


Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College

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