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

Brendan Prawdzik brendanprawdzik at gmail.com
Thu Jan 6 14:19:27 EST 2011

I think that Harold Skulsky's questions are wonderful.  They direct us
to major problems/tensions in the scholarship, pertaining especially
to the place of ambiguity, uncertainty, and even excess and ugliness
in the aesthetics of the late Milton.  The question of beauty is
surely also a question of Milton's development: from a more Platonist
to a more monist ontology, from a lover of harmony and pure form to an
author drawn more to irony and difference.  When we think of beauty,
do with think of Stanley Fish's Milton or John Rumrich's or Victoria
Silver's or Dayton Haskin's?  The Milton of "At a Solemn Music," or of
*Samson Agonistes*?

I think of two familiar passages from the early prose that may also
add to or complicate our view of Milton's aesthetics:

>From the introduction to Book II of *Reason of Church Government*,
where Milton is considering the responsibility of the national/divine

"Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in vertu amiable,
or grave, whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of
that which is call'd fortune from without, or the wily suttleties and
refluxes of mans thoughts from within, all these things with a solid
and treatable smoothnesse to paint out and describe."

>From *Areopagitica*:

"Yet these are the men cry'd out against for schismaticks and
sectaries; as if, while the Temple of the Lord was building, some
cutting, some squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there
should be a sort of irrationall men who could not consider there must
be many schisms and many dissections made in the quarry and in the
timber, ere the house of God can be built. And when every stone is
laid artfully together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it can
but be contiguous in this world; neither can every peece of the
building be of one form; nay rather the perfection consists in this,
that out of many moderat varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that
are not vastly disproportionall arises the goodly and the gracefull
symmetry that commends the whole pile and structure. Let us therefore
be more considerat builders, more wise in spirituall architecture,
when great reformation is expected."

Best wishes to all,

Brendan M. Prawdzik

Roberta Holloway Fellow, UC Berkeley '10-'11
Ph.D., UC Berkeley '09

On Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 10:29 AM, Jameela Lares <Jameela.Lares at usm.edu> wrote:
> See also the Letter to a Friend of 1633 in which Milton mentions his "vehement love of the beautiful."
> See also discussions of style in APOLOGY, e.g.,
> "For doubtlesse that indeed according to art is most eloquent, which returnes and approaches neerest to nature from whence it came; and they expresse nature best, who in their lives least wander from her safe leading, which may be call'd regenerate reason" (YP I:874).
> "And that whose mind so ever is fully possest with a fervent desire to know good things, and with the dearest charity to infuse the knowledge of them into others, when such a man would speak, his words (by what I can expresse) like so many nimble and airy servitors trip about him at command, and in well order'd files, as he would wish, fall aptly into their own places" (YP I:949).
> 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
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