[Milton-L] Characterization of Satan

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Sat Dec 18 21:35:58 EST 2010

See Thomas Maresca, _Three English Epics_, Cory.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Grewell, Cory L." <CGrewell at thiel.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Saturday, December 18, 2010 7:05 PM
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Characterization of Satan

> The remarks on the humanization and sympathetic (arguably) portrayal 
> of Satan here remind me of a question I've been meaning to pose to 
> this groupe for a while.  Has anyone that you know of written an 
> analysis of Satan as sympathetic in light of the classical epic 
> tradition?  What I have in mind is the sympathetic portrayal of 
> Hector in Homer's Iliad.  Given the agon that ensues between 
> Achilles and Hector, the valor and ability of Hector gives more 
> glory to Achilles when he bests him in battle finally.  Has anyone 
> explored whether this might be to a certain extent what Milton is 
> doing with Satan in the early books, i.e. building him up as a 
> formidable foe who tentatively seizes a "moral" high ground only to 
> be bested by the Son?  I know this is sort of similar to what Fish 
> describes in his reading of the poem, but I don't recall him setting 
> his analysis in the Classical tradition.
> Dr. Cory Lowell Grewell
> Assistant Professor of English
> Thiel College
> 75 College Ave
> Greenville, PA  16125
> (724)589-2146
> ________________________________
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of James Rovira
> Sent: Fri 12/17/2010 10:21 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bloom & Rovira on Xtian narratives
> Would be very interesting to hear you describe your reading 
> experiences of PL from that background, Carl.  I was fortunate 
> enough to teach selections to a very mixed audience in a survey 
> course this semester.  Many of my Christian students -- most of them 
> Evangelical of sorts with little real historical understanding of 
> Christianity -- were largely shocked by their being drawn toward 
> Satan as a character.  Many comments about that.  The general 
> feeling was that Satan was humanized, given feelings and motivation, 
> rather than being a somewhat abstract force of pure evil.  Alongside 
> these students were others who had no religious background at all. 
> They too were similarly drawn, without the sense of shock.  Students 
> both Christian and non-Christian were about evenly divided over 
> Satan turning into a real jerk eventually and Satan being a 
> character with whom one could sympathize.
> Of everything we read from, gasp, Beowulf to the 18thC, Paradise 
> Lost seemed the greatest and most impressive work of the 
> imagination.  I could tell that it captured students in ways that 
> other literature did not, even my students who were not great 
> readers and certainly not great readers of poetry.  One of my most 
> gifted students rewrote sections of PL into a short story set in a 
> rural church today.  The church building represented Pandaemonium, 
> the pastor Satan, who tries to seduce the female partner in a young, 
> innocent couple.
> But, to get to the point, most of those who read it from a faith 
> perspective did not feel that their beliefs were challenged.  When 
> I've taught it in the past I've had Roman Catholic students who, 
> surprisingly, treated it consistently and coherently almost as a 
> doctrinal manual.  THAT was shocking to me, esp. since they'd been 
> taught in their Catholic HSs to read it that way.
> My responses to this thread have been that we can't assume how an 
> orthodox believer will respond as both Scripture and Milton are 
> subject to interpretation, like everything else.
> Jim R
> On Sat, Dec 18, 2010 at 1:03 AM, Carl Bellinger <bcarlb at comcast.net> 
> wrote:
> Sorry Jim. Attempting to escape the tedious style that dogs my 
> keyboard I have flown apparently into mere opacity. I think I should 
> try-&-find [is there a proper spelling of the idiomatic "try and 
> find"?] Bloom's comment in situ before getting back to you on this.
>     But in the mean time I would say only that having myself grown 
> up in a bible-centered but also bible-rich [Christian narrative?] 
> community I know what it's like to feel blasted at every turn in 
> this great poem, and to feel that not only the monks deserve to be 
> tattered into rags by the violent crosswind but Milton too.
> Cheers
> Carl


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