[Milton-L] Re: Canaries in the coal mine, prelaps, etc.

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Wed Jan 6 22:18:36 EST 2010

Richard --

In my experience, there are writers who pay close attention to detail, and
there are writers who don't.  Milton has always seemed to me the first
type.  He's doing an incredible thing with PL, integrating his own
understanding of Christian theology, the Biblical material, Greek and Roman
myth, then-contemporary science (cosmology), addressing the concerns of
apologetics, etc.  He seems like the type of writer aware of those details
and who would want them to all fit together.  While I don't disagree with
you about his main purpose, that doesn't mean he neglected details.  The
world in which characters are placed is just as important in revealing
character as the characters themselves.

That being said, of course Milton can slip.  This one just seems too
obvious.  If its obvious to me, surely it was obvious to Milton.  I'm
inclined to think he was thinking about the issue differently, so I'm
curious how he may have been doing so.

Within the Biblical account, pain during childbirth and labor exist before
the fall.  The curse was for an increase in pain in childbearing, not the
unique introduction of it, and Adam and Eve were commanded to tend the
Garden before the fall.  Whether or not sex existed before the fall is a
matter of which exegete you read.  Jerome reads the Genesis account
symbolically in a way that would make Freud proud -- snake, fruit, come on,
it's all about sex.  But, sex was not forbidden.

Jim R

On Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 9:58 PM, richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:

> I didn't expect any agreement at all, so half of John R's mind is pretty
> good.  Let
> me try one other formulation, and see if this helps any.  I think that what
> Milton
> is doing in the presentation of human life in Eden -- which I'm on record
> thinking the greatest and deepest thing in PL -- is trying to imagine an
> ideal
> human life/marriage.  I think that is more important to him, and more of
> what
> he is trying to accomplish, than constantly to be reminding himself that
> this is
> an ideal PRELAPSARIAN human life, and that he has to rigorously exclude
> anything that is supposed, traditionally, to be postlapsarian.  If he has,
> uniquely,
> sex and labor before the fall, why not some version of seasonal change,
> ripening
> and overripening fruit, etc?  And I think it possible to exaggerate the
> division
> between pre and post.  I also think that with regard to Eden, M is more
> interested in ethical matters (in the broad Aristotelian sense of ethics)
> than in
> cosmological ones.  Hope this helps a bit.
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