[Milton-L] Milton and Joyce: artificers of separate realities?
nbcharlton at comcast.net
Wed Jul 28 14:16:27 EDT 2010
Surely I'm not the only Milton-L subscriber who also subscribes to the
delightful newsletter, A.Word.A.Day. This Monday the word was
"artificer," and I sent them the following email:
When I saw this word on Monday, my first thought was "Artificer of
frand." That's one of many appellations that Milton gives Satan in
... he soon aware,
Each perturbation smooth'd with outward calm,
Artificer of fraud; and was the first
That practis'd falsehood under saintly show,... (Book IV, lines
Another literary artificer is Stephen Dedalus, James Joyce's /alter
ego, /in /Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:/
Welcome, O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the
reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the
uncreated conscience of my race. Old father, old artificer,
stand me now and ever in good stead.
Still, for no good reason nor identifiable memory, the word first of
all conjures up in me a vision of a white-coated /patissier/ making
a splendid white-frosted wedding cake.
Just off-hand, there would seem to be no two major figures in English
literature more dissimilar than Milton and Joyce, though their aims have
To "forge ... the uncreated conscience of my race" is not unlike
pursuing "things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme." In his endeavor,
Milton invokes the heavenly Muse and at certain points God, Joyce
invokes "life" and "Old father, old artificer." Milton wants theodicy,
Joyce wants the self.
This could be a rich vein to mine, and it all hangs on the concept of
the artificer, but I leave it to someone better versed in Joyce and who
needs to do a paper!
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