[Milton-L] Eve's curls (reply to William Moeck)
Campbell, W. Gardner
Gardner_Campbell at baylor.edu
Sat Sep 5 13:04:13 EDT 2009
I myself am less confident that Eve is not seeking trial. If she is, and I confess I think she is (she has multiple aims in the separation colloquy, as who would not, fallen or otherwise?), I do think her seeking trial is fraught but also potentially blessed. It seems to me the case is stronger for seeking trial as a good than it is for Milton's having changed his mind since "Areopagitica." But of course the poem at this moment makes the question enormously complicated within multiple contexts of human and Christian devotion. It's always hard to know how much of his or her material the artist can successfully shape, but if any artist ever saw value in making these ethical decisions as complex and contextually intervolved as they could possibly be, it would be Milton. Or so it seems to me.
It is true that Eve has been alone before. Stella is quite right to say that this separation could have been blocked by the angel but was not. Interestingly, Raphael's sternest warnings regarding Adam's authority over Eve, and Adam's stoutest defense of Eve's integrity and complexity, come right at the end of the book when Eve, like Hamlet, overheard at least a bit (but how much?) of a very important conversation. The consequences and context of that separation and overheard conversation are large parts of what I'm exploring in my essay on alterity, hierarchy and authority. The complications in the separation scene on Book 8 add even more complications, tangles, wanderings, and wayfaring/warfaring to the separation scene in Book 9. Really quite extraordinary in every respect. As Wally Kerrigan once noted, this poet is Leviathan. Not quite the same as the white whale, but on certain days when the sea mist is thick it's hard to know.
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of srevard at siue.edu [srevard at siue.edu]
Sent: Saturday, September 05, 2009 7:30 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List; Schwartz, Louis
Cc: 'John Milton Discussion List'
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Eve's curls (reply to William Moeck)
Two points to add to Louis' excellent commentary.
1. Eve is not seeking trial. She is seeking to garden alone.
2. Eve has been alone before. On the day Raphael visits, she
goes off alone, and neither the angel or her husband says
anything. If she can't be trusted alone, why didn't Raphael
warn Adam not to let her wander off by herself?
Quoting "Schwartz, Louis" <lschwart at richmond.edu>:
> I have no quarrel at all with what you say about Adam's authority to use
> coercion or with your suggestion about the false analogy, but I don't agree
> that Eve should necessarily have followed Adam's advice. I'm not at all
> convinced that his argument, taken in the context of the poem's larger
> discourse about temptation, is either the wiser or the better one. He's
> right (in lines 9.342-75) in what he says about obedience, about the danger
> of false appearances, and about the good that can come from mutual minding,
> but I also think he stumbles significantly when he suggests that it's better
> to "avoid," rather than to "seek" temptation. One could argue that there
> might be some danger of pride in the "seeking," but there could be zeal in
> that, too-a danger, perhaps, like a lot the unstable things in the narrow
> room of Eden, but not in itself fallen). And in this particular story-the
> way Milton tells it-"avoiding" temptation is simply impossible.
> In addition, the perfectly good idea that Adam and Eve could benefit from
> staying together to "mind" one another only makes a kind of temporary sense
> at this point in the narrative. How long would that have to last? Is it
> either possible or good for them to be unseparated indefinitely in their
> daily lives? At some point paradise will have to allow for the impulse to be
> apart (that's, on Eve's part what started the whole conversation). That
> impulse has its pleasures, it allows for the cultivation of certain things
> that constant togetherness does not, and none of these are incompatible with
> paradisal existence (some of these pleasures and opportunities-Eve's-have
> been beautifully explored, for example, by Diane McColley in her essay "Eve
> and the Arts of Eden"). If this reading makes any sense at all, Eve must be
> right that they are "secure single or combined" or their happiness is frail.
> That she fails her test does not prove that she's wrong about that, unless
> you're willing to argue that she can't be blamed for her failure (a
> conclusion that one could come to, but not one that the poem argues for).
> And does the text assure us that Adam would not have been deceived by
> whatever Satan might have thrown at him, either alone or with Eve? Satan is
> a pretty resourceful antagonist, and God has let him at large to try
> humankind. He was lucky on the first attempt, but who knows what he'd have
> come up with later?
> Louis Schwartz
> Associate Professor of English
> University of Richmond
> Richmond, VA 23173
> (804) 289-8315
> lschwart at richmond.edu<mailto:lschwart at richmond.edu>
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Michael Gillum
> Sent: Thursday, September 03, 2009 4:01 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Eve's curls (reply to William Moeck)
> It seems the ontological difference between Adam and Eve in PL is great
> enough to confer authority (she ought to follow his advice) but not great
> enough to justify coercion (he must allow her to choose whether to follow his
> advice). They are on the same plane of being, but he is slightly wiser and is
> the natural leader. Not only does Adam abjure the use of force, he doesn't
> even make rules. Rules are implicit in nature and reason, except for the
> Special Prohibition. Apparently, one of the rules is that an unfallen human
> may not coerce another.
> Eve does not rebel against Adam; rather, she makes a well-meaning error of
> judgement in being overly assertive of her natural liberty. I think
> separation scene defines a contrast within the apparent analogy Satan : God
> :: Eve : Adam.
> As Louis Schwartz implies, in Milton's view, analogies taking the form (God :
> creature :: boss creature : other creature) are false analogies.
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