[Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost

Marlene Edelstein malkaruth2000 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Apr 16 12:14:29 EDT 2009


I so much agree with you. This urge to degrade Shakespeare by asserting that he's not a poet (because he was principally a playwright) seems like peurile attention-seeking iconoclasm, and anachronistic to boot. For Plato, for Aristotle, for Sidney, a poet was a writer (or speaker) of imaginative rather than factual works. True enough, when PL was produced print culture was more established, and with it the modern idea of literature, but like Shakespeare's plays PL is also poem intimately connected with orality and performance work: it was composed orally, and haven't we all organised and attended full-text readings which bewitch a miscellaneous audience? 
           For me, all great literary works are poems, whether in verse or prose. Just now I'm re-reading the reflections on poetic genius of this year's birthday boy Samuel Johnson - "a mind active, ambitious, and adventurous, always investigating, always aspiring; in its widest searches still longing to go forward, in its highest flights still wishing to be higher; always imagining something greater than it knows, always endeavouring more than it can do ... that power which constitutes a poet; that quality without which judgement is cold and knowledge is inert; that energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates ..."  Sorry, I'm getting carried away - but why not love greatness in whatever form? The qualities Johnson enumerates belong to both Shakespeare and Milton (though he was actually writing about Pope and Dryden). They can also be found in great novels. A pity we've lost the classical conception of the poem.

                    Marlene

believe everything, believe nothing

--- On Thu, 16/4/09, Dr. Larry Gorman <larry at eastwest.edu> wrote:

From: Dr. Larry Gorman <larry at eastwest.edu>
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Thursday, 16 April, 2009, 5:03 PM

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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