[Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when a question is a good one

Dr. Larry Gorman larry at eastwest.edu
Thu Jan 7 18:18:03 EST 2010


Is it impossible for a proposal to include a statement of its meaning
and/or purpose?  If it isn't, what is it that separates a proposal from
a poem?  Purpose and/or meaning?  

I would think that what makes a poem a poem is that one writes it to be
a good poem rather than to do something.  But does that mean that PL was
not meant to do anything?

Is PL simultaneously purposeful and purposeless?  Is such a
contradiction a prerequisite of great art?

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Carrol Cox
Sent: Wednesday, January 06, 2010 5:50 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when a question is a good
one



"Campbell, W. Gardner" wrote:
> 
> With all due respect, isn't the question of what constitutes "the best
possible form of recognizable human life" the most urgent and complex
question one can ask if one seeks to justify the ways of God to men? I
think Milton asked the question as rigorously as any poet ever has, and
has a great deal riding on the answer. I don't want to suggest that we
will find definitive answers to our hermeneutical questions, any more
than Milton found definitive answers to these theological questions, and
of course great Milton can nod. But I think it's a good and useful thing
to think hard about the complexities Milton thinks about--and yes, I do
think he worries about details like time in Paradise and the related
question of what time is for or could possibly be for in a perfect
universe. Not beside the point at all!

I forget what earlier critic made the following argument, but I think it
may be relevant here.

Start with a poem. The author adds a line stating the purpose of the
poem. But it is now a new poem, and the meaning/purpose now involves the
relationhips between the new line and the rest of the poem. Therfore it
is impossible for a poem to include a statement of its meaning and/or
purpose. Now since PL includes a statement that it inteds to justify the
ways of God to man, that cannot be the purpose of the poem. Hence if we
try to state the purpose of the poem, we have to find out some purpose
larger than that in the explict declaration of justifying God's ways. 

And while I'm not sure to what extent I agree with Richard strier's
formulation of that purpose, it seems more promising than hunting for a
consistent theodicy, even in the most minor details of the poem.

Probably in the broadest sense, Milton's purpose was to write aoem that
the future would not willingly let die.

Carrol


> 
> Gardner
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of richard strier
> Sent: Wednesday, January 06, 2010 12:38 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when is a question a good
one?
> 
> I guess I think that all this cranking up of brainpower is beside the
point
> (though new facts, such as those Carol cited from Moishe, are nice).
I don't
> think that Milton worried about these details in the way that we are.
I think that
> he meant for Eden to be a vision of the best possible form of
recognizable
> human life.  Recognizable includes all the basic variables of our
experience, I
> think.  As Wittgenstein said (many times), sometimes its good to know
when to
> stop.
> 
> I know this won't satisfy those looking for "solutions" to these
"problems," but
> there it is.
> 
> ---- Original message ----
> >Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2010 10:02:22 -0600
> >From: John Rumrich <rumrich at mail.utexas.edu>
> >Subject: [Milton-L] Canaries in the coal mine
> >To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> >
> >   Fortunately for the theodicy, avian foreknowledge,
> >   however immutable, carries with it not the least
> >   impulse or shadow of fate.
> >   On the other hand, we are left with the edgy if not
> >   blasphemous implication that bird brains partake of
> >   the divine image more than human brains do.  I have
> >   at times suspected as much, at least in my own case.
> >   All best for a new year of seasons and their change,
> >   John
> >   On Jan 5, 2010, at 9:59 PM, John Leonard wrote:
> >
> >     "Seasons" can mean "time of day," and Eve probably
> >     does use that sense when she speaks of "all
> >     seasons and their change" in the same breath as
> >     "breath of morn."  But it is hard to withhold the
> >     sense "seasons of the year" in book 7 when Raphael
> >     speaks of migrating birds "Intelligent of seasons"
> >     as they embark on their "annual voyage"
> >     (7.427-31).  Twenty years ago I tried to rescue
> >     these lines for innocence by arguing that
> >     "seasons" need not have the obvious meaning, but I
> >     now find my argument desperate and unconvincing.
> >     This is a problematic moment in PL, for the
> >     "intelligent" birds clearly intuit a coming Fall
> >     even before Adam and Eve are created.  Maybe
> >     Milton just slipped, but it is still a suggestive
> >     moment.
> >
> >     John Leonard
> >
> >       ----- Original Message -----
> >       From: James Rovira
> >       To: John Milton Discussion List
> >       Sent: Tuesday, January 05, 2010 8:52 PM
> >       Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton's Prelapsarian
> >       Cosmos
> >       Ha...yes, Jeffery, this sentence of yours sums
> >       it up:
> >
> >       <<Yesterday, I noted that Milton seems to give
> >       Adam and Eve a prelapsarian understanding of the
> >       seasons that will characterize only the
> >       postlapsarian world, so let us turn unto the
> >       seasons that occur throughout Paradise Lost.>>
> >
> >       Seems like it was a theological commonplace that
> >       unfallen Eden was in a perpetual Spring, though,
> >       and probably still is among Evangelicals.  It
> >       makes sense for God to say at creation that the
> >       stars were given for the seasons.  If he said so
> >       in front of the the angelic host, that would
> >       distribute knowledge of the changes of the
> >       seasons before they occurred.  I don't recall if
> >       Raphael's use of the word "seasons" occurs
> >       before or after A and E's first use of it.  But
> >       we could conceivably reconstruct word of mouth
> >       knowledge from God to the angels to human
> >       beings.
> >
> >       I'm not completely satisfied as none of these
> >       characters would know what they were talking
> >       about, except for God, but they seem to.
> >
> >       Jim R
> >
> >       On Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 8:39 PM, Horace Jeffery
> >       Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:
> >
> >         Thanks, Jim. Those are some of the very
> >         passages that I've been puzzling over
> >         recently. At the risk of cluttering this
> >         listserve and tooting my own horn -- though
> >         this actually litters the list less -- here
> >         are my recent blog entries on this issue:
> >
> >     ------------------------------------------------
> >
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