[Milton-L] Recent discussions

Schwartz, Louis lschwart at richmond.edu
Fri Dec 17 15:51:02 EST 2010

A few brief remarks regarding clarity and courtesy:

1) I think that some of the scholars and teachers among us ought to have a little more patience and generosity with those whose experience of Milton’s work comes from enthusiasms and activities outside the academy.

2) I think that those who come to a list like this from outside the academy should be aware of and sensitive to the fact that many of the list’s members have dedicated long professional careers to the study of Milton’s life and works, the culture and politics of seventeenth century England, and to the cultural history of Western Europe.  Some have expertise that ranges more widely than that.  Many of these members have published carefully researched and closely argued books on these subjects, explaining their importance to a full understanding of Milton’s work.  Their conclusions can be argued with by anyone who takes the time to consider them with some care.  It would be good to address these members, in any case, with this in mind.

3) I have no problem with people sending Christmas greetings via the list, but it would be good if those greetings recognized that there are many list members who are not Christians.   Courtesy, I believe, simply requires that such greetings should be addressed only to those who are indeed celebrating the holiday in question—although they can of course be posted publically.  That should be easy enough to do.  Beyond this matter of address, the greeter should be free to say whatever he or she wishes to his or her fellow Christians—and they can respond however they wish.  For my part, although I am not myself a Christian, I wish them all a merry Christmas.  After all, many are deeply cherished—and in some cases deeply loved—friends and colleagues.  I also can’t help but think of those who are no longer with us as I write.

4) I think questions about #3 above should be carefully separated from other questions, like for example, those concerning the artistic value of a particular work of visual art that might accompany a Christmas greeting.  Again, for my part, I think Terrance’s illustrations of Paradise Lost are wonderfully rich, expressive, and responsive works of art, and I’m always happy to see them posted.  People can of course disagree about that, but that is a separate issue.  I could be mistaken, but I believe that the initial, negative reactions to Terrance’s post had to do with the assumptions his greeting seemed to be making about the beliefs of those he was addressing and not with the content of his painting.

5) I think that the discussion about “culturomics” and etc. is entirely relevant and very interesting.  So now I’m going to go and give it some (I hope) careful thought.

All the best to everyone,


Louis Schwartz
Associate Professor of English
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA  23173
(804) 289-8315
lschwart at richmond.edu

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