[Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Wed Jan 5 23:54:35 EST 2011


    Alas, my knowledge of Milton's aesthetics is limited to my own interpretation of Paradise Lost mainly.  But I would like to know more about his concept of beauty, especially if he has stated anything relevant in his prose works.  I would like to throw out some ideas for discussion though, if I may.  
    As one scholar has already mentioned perhaps a good place to start a discussion on Milton's aethetics would be the Platonic triad :The Good, the True, and the Beautiful.  All three constitute a unity.  When it comes to the feminine beauty of Eve and the excessive beauty of the garden, I see an emphasis 1) on beauty based on the senses (Eve's curly locks, the "crisped Brooks" (IV. 237), the variety of perfumes, etc.), 2) on hierarchy and order of the Cosmos (the Chain of Being, plenitude as seen also in Eve's infinite variety--this is where I see her as a Venus figure), and 3) on grace (gratia and castitas (purity) together.  All earthly beauty whether an object, a human, or a work of art is sanctified by the light of grace, when it has a divine purpose.  Art without this divine purpose becomes "artifice," and, therefore, lacking in grace.  Of course, Eve, Adam, and Satan, all had free will to determine their actions, but Milton does make it very hard for all these characters to resist beauty, in its earthly aspect:  Eve too beautiful, the fruit too sweet, and the garden too ornate. Why?
I wonder if Milton himself was concerned with his own appearance as a young man?  I read that he liked to carry a sword (a prerogative of a gentleman) when he ventured abroad into the streets of London (or Cambridge?).
Like Professor Demarest, I would also appreciate it if anyone would like to comment on this most interesting topic.
Best,
Salwa
 
Salwa Khoddam, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Emerita
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
OKC, OK  73106
Phone:  405-208-5127
Email:  skhoddam at cox.net
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Tony Demarest 
  To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu 
  Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2011 7:52 AM
  Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)


  Thank you all for responding- I appreciate the wisdom and the suggested titles. Now that this idea has grown legs, I would like to ask for myself, 
  whether Milton professed an aesthetic- is there anywhere he specified an understanding of beauty? Or do we need to piece one together?
  Again, ask me the same question regarding Saemund Sigfusson and I could give you a fairly educated guess- I am convinced I have been assigned Milton because no other prof in the department wants the job- though who would really shy away from the opportunity? 
  Thanks again-


  Tony

  > From: andrew.herpich at flinders.edu.au
  > To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
  > Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2011 14:05:38 -0800
  > Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)
  > 
  > Tony,
  > 
  > It is an interesting topic, but any theory that makes anything other than Eve's and Adam's choices the 'cause' of the Fall is misdirection. One of the most notable things about the Genesis text is Eve's reasoning over the serpent's words; this is amplified in Paradise Lost. And Adam in PL chooses his love for Eve - not based on her physical beauty alone, as his exchange with Raphael in Book VIII demonstrates - over obedience to God. Nevertheless, for that reason, any topic that puts the focus on Adam and Eve's love is a worthy one.
  > 
  > Andrew Herpich.
  > 
  > ________________________________________
  > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Jameela Lares [Jameela.Lares at usm.edu]
  > Sent: Wednesday, 5 January 2011 4:56 AM
  > To: John Milton Discussion List
  > Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)
  > 
  > Tony,
  > 
  > I am glad you are encouraging your student in what may indeed be a compelling topic.
  > 
  > There is, of course, the standard Neoplatonic stuff about beauty being the first rung on the ladder of Diotima. (Cf. Spenser's Fowre Hymnes.) I'm away from my library but could supply some titles later, always with the caveat that Neoplatonism works best during halcyon periods free of controversy.
  > 
  > Jameela Lares
  > Professor of English
  > The University of Southern Mississippi
  > 118 College Drive, #5037
  > Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
  > 601 266-4319 ofc
  > 601 266-5757 fax
  > ________________________________________
  > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Tony Demarest [tonydemarest at hotmail.com]
  > Sent: Monday, January 03, 2011 9:03 AM
  > To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
  > Subject: [Milton-L] (no subject)
  > 
  > Dear All-
  > 
  > First, Happy New Year to all; second, a problem: I have a student completing her senior thesis on PL, and she is gravitating
  > to the idea that beauty- physical and aesthetic- is the reason for the Fall. She argues that Eve's beauty is responsible for Satan's
  > focus upon her as target #1, and that it is also responsible for Adam's fear of immortality without her. Although my student is in the birthing throes of her thesis,
  > I find the subject provocative and worthy of further inquiry. I have put a reading list together (including texts from our list members), but I would also appreciate
  > any directions you may have.
  > Our college is small and I (a medievalist) have been teaching Milton for the past seven years- and that after a hiatus of 39 years as a public school administrator- so
  > my "scholarship" is quite pedestrian. So, that confession made, I would appreciate any assistance.
  > Thanking you in advance,
  > 
  > Tony
  > 
  > 
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