[Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost

Dr. Larry Gorman larry at eastwest.edu
Thu Apr 16 11:03:22 EDT 2009


The discussion is taking the kind of turn that is predictable when we
start making absolute judgments.  The original assertion was that
Paradise Lost is the greatest poem in the English language, an assertion
that might make sense if we decide to leave out Chaucer and Shakespeare
(somehow assuming that what they wrote weren't poems).  I can imagine
someone preferring Milton to Shakespeare (I myself prefer Twelfth Night
to King Lear, but I wouldn't assume that someone who thought King Lear
was the better play was somehow my intellectual or moral inferior.  I
happen to like Twelfth Night.)

I could put Paradise Lost in a tradition that begins with Spenser and
includes Pope, Blake, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and on and on.  I could do a
Harold Bloom and point out that Milton's successors become less and less
ambitious, as they narrow their scope, and say that this indicates
Milton's superiority.  This seems defensible although again I wouldn't
accuse those who use this kind of analysis as corrupted by postmodern
cowardice.

But the comparison won't let itself end there.  It drifts into comparing
Milton with Shakespeare and before you know it maybe Joyce, Jane Austen,
and Herman Melville.  Why?  What kinds of criteria can one use?  What
kind of purpose does such discrimination make?  Is it the inflation of
the discriminator's ego?  Look at the rhetoric of some of the
discussion. 

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of James Rovira
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2009 8:17 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost

Not to me.  It indicates to me a giving up on the ability of English
to communicate eloquently on the syntactic level and produce
unnecessarily obscure sentences at times.  But sentence construction
alone can never make any work "timeless" and "transcendent" -- if
Milton were to write his shopping list in this form we wouldn't be
discussing it except as a curiosity.

Of course Milton knew what he was doing.

Jim R

On Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 7:09 AM, jonnyangel <junkopardner at comcast.net>
wrote:

> And it's the Latinate construction (the thing after the "thing") of PL
that
> makes it unique, transcendent, and timeless,
>
> Donch'a think?
>
> Either Milton knew what he was doing, or he didn't.
>
> (Oh, and give me Beethoven over Mozart- Mozart sounds like
Bubble-Gum.)
>
> JonnyA
>
>
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-- 
James Rovira
Tiffin University
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