[Milton-L] Eve's curls (reply to William Moeck)

Schwartz, Louis lschwart at richmond.edu
Mon Sep 7 15:30:37 EDT 2009


I'm grateful in turn for the observation about the "the pregnant ambiguity and even paradoxicality of

'seeking'" in the tradition Milton inherited.  I do think that part of Milton's purpose is indeed to intensify the ambiguity of the concept by playing it out poetically and dramatically in this scene, and part of what he’s doing is to dramatize the way the sort of seeking we’re talking about arises as a desire—one that is entirely licit in paradise.

I wish I had something like a full argument of my own to offer, but all I have right now are the further details I've mentioned in my most recent posts.  I do think that Emily Speller's post, however, is a very useful and interesting contribution to this line of thought.  It's closely related to the issues Gardner raised in the post he wrote yesterday about Areopagitica and providence.  In fact, I would urge those who are interested in continuing to pursue these issues to see his essay on paradise and Nicholas of Cusa, which addresses the question of just what sort of trial the tree represents as well as the role that appetites of various kinds (including, most importantly, an appetite for knowledge) play in the way it functions.  His argument suggests a very good answer to the questions about knowledge of evil that have just come up in the posts by Arlene Stiebel and Jeffery Hodges.  In a nutshell that’s a bound of infinite space, he suggests that more and much better can be learned, according to the poem, by not eating the fruit than by eating it.




Louis Schwartz

Associate Professor of English

University of Richmond

Richmond, VA  23173

(804) 289-8315

lschwart at richmond.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Harold Skulsky
Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 12:29 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Eve's curls (reply to William Moeck)

Many thanks to Louis for his remarks on what I now see is a possibility:

that on M's showing Eve makes her separate gardening proposal with the

intention of "seeking" temptation — in a version of that intention

that leaves Eve blameless and even does her credit.

The scare quotes around "seek" above are Louis's, and (at least for me)

they illuminate the complexity of what is at stake in this notoriously

challenging passage. The pregnant ambiguity and even paradoxicality of

"seeking" (i.e., "trying to find") is well known in the intellectual

tradition M inherits (see the *Meno*and the literature it generates).

The ambiguity is intensified where what one is trying to find is not a

person, place or thing,  but an event or experience (in the current

case, "temptation"; or, in the *Meno*, "knowledge"). What is it to

"find" temptation? For that matter, what is it to TRY to "find"

temptation? What is it, above all,  for Eve, as M presents her to us

here and elsewhere in PL, to do these things?

I am not free to pursue these questions at the moment. But I look

forward to Louis's argument. And it now seems to me that I was overhasty

in my original posting.


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