[Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

Arlene M Stiebel amstiebel at verizon.net
Mon Sep 7 17:55:56 EDT 2009


I'm not sure I would call Milton a "failure," and I surely would not  
equate innocence with ignorance--there is a quality of naïveté that  
is redemptive, after all, in Eve. And I guess I always thought that  
there was no anxiety in Eden--at least until the serpent brought it in!

Carol, I think that we are supposed to understand that Adam is to Eve  
as God is to him. That is, there would be no distinction in this  
context between what you'd tell your teenaged daughter and what you  
tell your wife.

Thanks to all for a stimulating conversation.

-- Arlene 



Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 7, 2009, at 1:55 PM, "Carol Barton" <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>  
wrote:

> Yes, Louis, I think you're exactly right. Before I say why that's  
> so, I should explain (for those who don't already know) that I see  
> PR/SA/PL as three phases (in that order) of Milton's attempt to  
> "justify the ways of God" to those fallen creatures who have  
> difficulty apprehending them on their own. He starts (conceptually,  
> at least, in this paradigm) with the Son--who is too perfect, too  
> wise, and too incapable of sin to be a plausible role model for us  
> sinners--not that we shouldn't aspire to his glory, but that we can  
> never expect to achieve it. He moves to Samson--who is too  
> superhuman and in some ways too flawed to be Everyman--and arrives  
> at last at Adam and Eve, who are literally Everyman, and capable of  
> as much saintliness and as much sin as the rest of us. That's the  
> reason why I keep raising PR and Samson as "mirrors" to PL.
>
> So: Satan's taunts ("if you're really the Son of God . . .") and his  
> thunderstorm and his incessant parade of temptations are all part  
> and parcel of the same inducement to sinful action--the cleverest of  
> which is his appeal to Jesus to turn the stones into bread, and  
> engage in the ostensibly charitable act of feeding the hungry. But  
> as Stanley  Fish pointed out years ago, Jesus understands that even  
> doing seeming good at the Devil's bidding is a bad thing (and after  
> all, numbered among the "hungry" that Satan wants him to feed are  
> his fellow devils), and he doesn't rise to any of the taunts,  
> responding in effect, "Sorry, but I don't do miracles for the  
> entertainment of the devil." Adam and Eve may not be that  
> sophisticated, on an ethical plane, but (as Milton goes to great  
> lengths to emphasize) both Adam and Eve know one key fact: GOD SAID  
> NO.
>
> The "comforts" offered to Job by his friends (which amount to  
> taunts) are a species of the same kind of trial, which Job passes by  
> not internalizing them, just as Samson's response to Harapha's  
> taunts and the guard's summons are evidence of his failure: he lets  
> the enemy force him into rash and foolish behaviour the origin of  
> which is emotional, not intellectual, and which is inimical to his  
> proper service to God. That's what Satan hopes to accomplish with  
> Jesus, and what he does at last achieve with Eve.
>
> I responded to Jeffery privately (not wanting to overstay my welcome  
> on the list proper) concerning Arlene's  question with this analogy:
>
> Suppose you, as a loving father, tell your 15 year old daughter that  
> she is not to go out with the 21-year old man who's had his eye on  
> her. Does she need to know your reasons for the prohibition, to  
> understand that if she goes anyway, she is doing something wrong?  
> Like Eve, in her adolescent know-it-all-ness, if you tried to tell  
> her that she wasn't emotionally ready for what would be likely to  
> happen on such a date, she'd probably argue with you, and tell you  
> how nice the guy was, and what a gentleman, and how she was certain  
> she had nothing to fear from him--and pout that you didn't trust  
> her, and you thought she was stupid, or lacked judgment, and so on.
>
> As her father (an adult dealing with a child) you could simply  
> forbid her to go.
>
> But if you were having an analogous argument with your wife, all you  
> could say about her intended action is what Adam says--then go, and  
> don't blame me if you get into trouble!
>
> That said, I haven't seen Gardner's essay, but I will try to get it.  
> (My access is limited, these days.) But I would certainly agree that  
> "more and much better can be learned, according to the poem, by not  
> eating the fruit than by eating it": Eve seeks to accelerate kairos,  
> to speed things up by taking matters into her own hands, and  
> succeeds in retarding it--by who knows how many millennia? One need  
> only look at the innocent joys of a very young child to apprehend  
> what knowing good without knowing evil means--and I am not including  
> fallen ignorance in that equation. To delight in the beat of a  
> butterfly's wings--to approach one's "work" with joy and enthusiasm-- 
> to love without fear, and accept love without qualification, to have  
> everything one needs and everyone one loves accessible and  
> available . . . and to know nothing of war or debiliating disease or  
> the ravages of age and death and destruction or treachery or  
> desertion or famine  . . .
>
> If  one must know evil to know good, why do we try so hard to  
> protect our children from evil, and wish them a world in which it  
> doesn't exist?
>
> Best to all,
>
> Carol Barton
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Schwartz, Louis
> To: 'John Milton Discussion List'
> Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 3:37    PM
> Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking    temptation
>
> Carol, thanks for that observation!  I should have noted myself that  
> the Father, in his praise of Abdiel, calls the reproach of the rebel  
> angels “far worse to bear/ Then violence” (6.34-5).  So Adam is  
> correct about the negative force of the “aspersion.”  But this is  
> all part of the nature of this sort of trial, no?  The insult is—or  
> should be—merely a spur to proving the insult wrong by resisting the 
>  offered temptation (that’s Eve’s response, I think).  On the  
> other hand, maybe the really interesting thing here is that it might 
>  be tempting to believe such an insult, thereby giving oneself the e 
> xact excuse that Milton’s poem wants to    argue out of human hands. 
>   Ultimately the insult itself can do no more harm (or less harm) th 
> an any other aspect of a trial.  And if such pains and dangers exist 
>  in the Eden of Paradise Lost (and they do), they must have their po 
> sitive valences.
>
>
>
> Louis
>
>
>
> ===========================
>
> Louis Schwartz
>
> Associate Professor of English
>
> University of Richmond
>
> Richmond, VA  23173
>
> (804) 289-8315
>
> lschwart at richmond.edu
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l- 
> bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Carol Barton
> Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 2:40 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation
>
>
>
> I think that rather than actually "tainting" his intended victims,  
> Nancy and Louis, Adam is saying that the Adversary, by the mere  
> assumption on his part that they *can* be tempted, casts aspersions  
> on their presumed integrity. If you think about it in the context of  
> Satan's very unsubtle (and ultimately almost comic) attempt to "woo"  
> Jesus with women, the nature of the "aspersion" is pretty clear--he  
> insults the Son's integrity *and* his intelligence (as well as his  
> piety, temperance, and so on) by the mere assumption that such a  
> stupid bribe will work. Adam has already assured Eve that evil may  
> come into the mind unbidden without tainting the person to whom the  
> thought (or dream) occurs. Satan doesn't defile the object of his  
> seductions by the mere fact of his attempt--but he does imply that  
> they're capable of being tempted.
>
>
>
> Best to all,
>
>
>
> Carol Barton
>
>
>
>
>
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l- 
> bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Nancy Rosenfeld
> Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 1:26 PM
> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
> Subject: [Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation
>
>
>
> Dear all,
>
>
>
> Any comments on the following remark made by Adam in his attempt to  
> convince Eve not to go off alone?
>
>
>
> For he who tempts, though in vain, at least asperses
>
> The tempted with dishonour foul, supposed
>
> Not incorruptible of faith, not proof
>
> Against temptation (IX.296-9).
>
>
>
> The above sounds to me like a claim on Adam's part for the validity  
> of a sort of "guilt by association," i.e. even if one successfully  
> resists temptation, the very fact of having been seen by the enemy  
> as a possible victim in some way sullies one. Of course I haven't  
> lost sight of the identity of the speaker: Adam may be giving  
> expression to his own idea--one which Milton may not have found  
> acceptable.
>
>
>
> In Adam's defense we might note that although disturbed by Eve's  
> narration of her dream of yielding to Satan's temptation in Book V,  
> he explains to her at some length why:
>
>
>
> Evil into the mind of god or man
>
> May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
>
> No spot or blame behind: which gives me hope
>
> That what in sleep thou didst abhor to dream,
>
> Waking thou never wilt consent to do (V.117-20).
>
>
>
> So why does Adam attempt to play the "aspersion" card in the opening  
> of his debate with Eve in Book IX? Has he (or Milton) rethought the  
> issue? Or is he trying to bring forward as many arguments as  
> possible, hoping that one of them will convince Eve?
>
>
>
> All the best,
>
> Nancy Rosenfeld.
>
>
>
> Nancy Rosenfeld, PhD.
>
> English Studies Unit
>
> Max Stern College of Jezreel Valley, Israel.
>
>
>
>
>
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