Milton & Lilith AND Re: [Milton-L] NY Times Op-Ed piece by Ross Douthat

Qadir ghadir2005 at
Tue Apr 26 15:19:48 EDT 2011

 Dear Professor Khoddam,
My whole point, which you seem to agree on, is that the allusion should not
be dismissed as a decorative, or even worse, a careless one. Likening,
explicitly or implicitly, Satan's consort to Adam's first wife is so strange
I cannot believe Milton, while knowing about it, decided to go with it
without intending the possible implications it might carry. What exactly
those implications might be or whether there are any other evidence that
supports this reading require another reading of the epic. But, given
Milton's encyclopedic knowledge, the connection seems pretty certain. It's
like catching one's sister and best-friend walking hand-in-hand down
Champs-Élysée under moonlight. (My apologies if I've gone too far.)

Dear Nancy,
I'm not sure whether you are looking for this. But there are some
discussions of Milton's hell and its influence on popular culture in *Milton
in Popular Culture*, published by Palgrave. Just by taking a look at the
Table of Contents, one can find the relevant chapters. The Introduction also
begins with a discussion of Woody Allen's quoting of the famous line,
"better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven," in his *Deconstructing

Qadir - Tehran

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Salwa Khoddam" <skhoddam at>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at>
Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2011 13:18:16 -0500
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: Re: Milton & Lilith
I agree with you Quadir, but is there anything else in the poem that
suggests this connection, or is it just and isolated allusion?
Salwa Khoddam, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Emerita
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
OKC, OK  73106
Phone:  405-208-5127
Email:  skhoddam at

Forwarded message ----------
From: Nancy Charlton <nbcharlton at>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at>
Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2011 17:41:46 -0700
Subject: [Milton-L] NY Times Op-Ed piece by Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat's piece "The Case for Hell" in Sunday's NY Times could have
been more clearly stated, but it did generate 295 comments.  Had I seen it
in time, there would have been 296.  His thesis is that the concept of Hell
has lost currency in popular thought, and it just doesn't scare people as it
once did.  He attributes this to pluralism and to feel-good evangelism. He
makes some use of Dante's nine circles but makes little mention of any other
literary descriptions of Hell.

The URL:

Not once was Milton mentioned, not by Douthat nor in any of the comments,
and I spent a couple reading them all (I excerpted some of them into a .doc
file, if anyone would like it.) I felt that omission of any mention of
Milton was a major omission, and I feel the need to discuss this issue from
a Miltonic standpoint.  Not that we haven't done so many times on Milton-L
in one form or another, but some scrutiny of this aspect of contemporary
culture might be worthwhile.

Anyway. I sent the following as a letter to the NYT:


Had I come upon Ross Douthat’s article, “The Case for Hell” before the
Comments were closed, I would have written at greater length than I’m doing
here about the most cogent description of Hell in English literature,
namely, that of Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Several commenters came close but
did not quote outright awell-known passage in PL: Satan’s retort to
Beelzebub’s urging him to make nice with God:

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

Subjectivity and self-absorption, the “darkness visible,” can so skew the
moral sense that it is easily turned upside down.  This is the “hell,” the
real evil,  that all, regardless of religious opinion, can and should agree
to eschew.  Though Satan gets the best lines, he doesn't get the last word:
he and the damnèd crew are turned to a pit of hissing snakes and never heard
from more while mercy and justice are meted out to Adam and Eve.

To fit the requirement of "about 150 words, I had to leave out a lot I would
have liked to say. Milton does inspire prolixity by example, but it was, I
admit, a nice exercise to write tight!

Nancy Charlton
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