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

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 6 01:31:31 EST 2011

This topic of beauty and its opposite, 'ugliness', also interests me. I think 
that when sin enters the Garden through the Fall, this moral decline is 
reflected in a loss of beauty, but I would be interested in citations that 
indicate ways in which Paradise is losing its beauty. Can anyone supply 
particular passages from Paradise Lost that illustrate the loss of beauty?

One example would be the loss of perfectly centered, constantly uniform, 
circular motion in the heavens when the celestial orbits are altered by angels 
as punishment (PL 10.651f), but there must also be examples in which the loss of 
beauty occurs more directly. The distempered flush in Eve's cheeks suggests a 
loss of true beauty as the direct effect of sin itself (PL 9.887).

What other passages can be cited?

Jeffery Hodges

From: Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Thu, January 6, 2011 1:54:35 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)

    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.

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-
>> 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 
>> 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 
>> 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 
>> 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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