[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

jonnyangel junkopardner at comcast.net
Mon Jan 5 01:01:39 EST 2009

Well Carrol, even another kind of question would be is why is so difficult
for readers who _are_ religious to separate the theology of PL from the poem
itself? I have always fallen under T.S. Eliot's _criticism_ of Milton ("Of
no other poet is it so difficult to consider the poetry simply as poetry.")
simply because of the theology of the Christian writer and work.

I believe that PL can be read simply as poetry and stand the test of time
without contextualizing it theologically or otherwise, but it is also a
Christian poet writing a Christian epic so how could anyone (despite their
beliefs) not take that into considerable consideration when reading it?

This past semester in my Milton class, I remember a girl I sat next to
getting red in the face and expressing her frustration when the class
started to pick the theological bones of a particular piece of PR and stated
something to the effect of "Would we be doing this if we were studying PR
like "The Epic of Gilgamesh"? I understood her point, but I could help but
feeling that she was missing the forest for the trees to a certain degree.

As for the Trinitarian/Unitarian slant, I think it's interesting if only
because I'm interested in how Milton's views changed, were altered, etc over
the course of his life and writing.

For instance, in PL Milton's invokes the "Heavenly Muse" (Urania) but we
know that Moses (referenced earlier) wasn't _inspired_ by Urania but by the
Holy Spirit. In PR, it continues with the Holy Spirit in PR in Book I: 282
"The Spirit descended on me like a Dove" (notice the simile) and Satan
speaking earlier in Book I: 82-3 " thence on his head/A perfect Dove
descend, what e're it meant" So, 'whatever it meant' could apply to Milton's
own theological views here (I know - I'm, stretching a little) and this
interests me personally.

I'm rambling, (it's late and I'm inebriated) so to cut this short before I
type 3,000 words I'll just say (speaking personally) I think there is a lot
more to be read into Milton's writing with regards to his ever changing
theological views. 

I'm a Christian by birthright (not by merit) and you're an atheist by
birthright (although I don't know how you could be an atheist by merit), so
I don't know how to explain it. I've read Milton as a poet, but now I'm
reading him (especially PL, PR and SA) within the context of the Christian
writer and the cultural, political and religious climate of his time (and I
should add "more so", because as I previously stated I've always personally
had trouble separating the theology from the poetry).

And if I were an atheist, I probably wouldn't be that interested in the
theological context of Milton's works (especially as it pertains to
Trinitarian views).



On 1/4/09 3:37 PM, "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at ilstu.edu> wrote:

> jonnyangel wrote:
>> I'm inclined to ask Michael's questions on Kim's post: if PL isn't
>> Trinitarian nor Arian, then what is it?
> Try another kind of question. Why is it so easy for readers who are
> _entierely_ non-religious (who, like me, are atheists by birthright more
> than merit) to respond positively to Milton's poem. I have a somewhat
> more difficult time with Herbert, and Crashaw I find unreadable, but my
> response to theological questions in Milton is as "distant" as is my
> response, in the Iliad, to whether or not Zeus can reverse Fate. (There
> has been scholarly dispute on this question.) One is always interested
> in achieving a 'correct' construal of a text, and thus I am interested
> in the debate, but my feeling for the poem is not in the least touched
> by whether it is trinitarian or unitarian.
> Carrol
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