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

Tony Demarest tonydemarest at hotmail.com
Thu Jan 6 00:13:43 EST 2011


Beauty and Puritanism- likely or unlikely bedfellows? And that idea of lushness, of being too beautiful- makes the mind swim. But there is more than the physical idea of beauty at work here- as if there were a beauty behind the apparent beauty- is it appropriate to speculate about Milton's aesthetic, and fix its path- phrases such as "Archangel ruined" surely qualify as beauty in image and sound. What if PL is, on one level, an attempt to create and destroy the idea of beauty- as only man can-Thank you for your ideas and thoughtful commentary.Tony

From: skhoddam at cox.net
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2011 22:54:35 -0600










    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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