[Milton-L] Prelapsarian hair dressing-- lovely!

richard strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Thu Aug 5 13:35:17 EDT 2010

Dear Jeffrey,

I think your student is highly to be commended.  The question seems to me just 
the kind of thing that Milton was indeed interested in.  He was trying hard, and 
with a lot of amazing success, to imagine what a fully Edenic fully human life 
would look like.  I think he would have been happy with this question.  I don't 
know whether he had worked out an answer.  I could see him going either way -
- that their hair remained a "perfect" length or, perhaps more probably, that 
they would have found a way, through their ingenuity, to groom themselves-- 
or, yet better, each other.  I don't know whether angelic aid would have been 
necessary, but it does remain a possibility.

And then, of course, there's the matter of prelapsarian excretion.  Perhaps it was 
sweet-smelling stuff that helped the garden.  Perhaps their digestion was so 
perfect that their systems assimilated everything; perhaps they excreted 
upwards (sublimed) and somehow sighed it out.

Just the right things to be thinking about, I think, in an unfallen but truly 
material world, and in a poem where the author was committed not to be 
embarrassed (whatever hypocrites might austerely deem).


---- Original message ----
>Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2010 10:32:36 -0400
>From: Jeffrey Shoulson <jshoulson at mail.as.miami.edu>  
>Subject: [Milton-L] Prelapsarian hair dressing  
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>   Here's a question one of my students
>   posed--admittedly a little silly, but intriguing,
>   nonetheless--for which I did not have a very
>   satisfying answer.  Perhaps some listserv subscriber
>   can offer a better one:
>   Book 4's description of Adam and Eve famously makes
>   much of their hair and, particularly, how their
>   respective hair lengths manifest their gendered
>   differences.  If we are to presume that things like
>   knives and blades would not have been necessary or
>   invented (cf. this list's earlier exchange about the
>   Satanic origins of technological invention) had the
>   Fall never occurred, what can we assume would have
>   happened to Adam's and Eve's hair over time?  Would
>   it have simply stayed the same length?  Would they
>   have found other means to keep their hair in the
>   state in which we first see them?
>   (I won't even bother to add the further question I
>   got about the apparent absence of prelapsarian
>   facial hair on Adam).
>   If the question is beneath this list or too silly,
>   feel free to ignore.  I did tell my students,
>   however, that I would put it out on the list and see
>   what it elicited.
>   I need a haircut.
>   Jeffrey
>   Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Ph. D.
>   Associate Professor of English and Judaic Studies
>   University of Miami
>   PO Box 248145
>   Coral Gables, FL 33124-4632
>   (o) 305-284-5596
>   (f) 305-284-5635
>   ON LEAVE, AY 2010-11
>   jshoulson at miami.edu
>   www.as.miami.edu/english/people/#jshoulson
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