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

Campbell, W. Gardner Gardner_Campbell at baylor.edu
Thu Jan 6 18:30:01 EST 2011

Where to look indeed! A great list from a great reader. Yet definitive answers are still elusive. Take for example (as in number 3 below) the famous crux toward the end of "L' Allegro." Does Milton endorse the Lydian mode, following Cassiodorus, or does he exercise dramatic irony by having his narrator endorse the Lydian mode that Plato condemned, thus demonstrating to the alert reader the shortcomings of the "L' Allegro" approach to life (assuming we can even agree on what that is, or what it may be at this moment from the narrator's point of view) and the superior way of life demonstrated by Il Penseroso? I've read a note somewhere that insists Milton is doing both at once: endorsing the Cassiodorus position "while subtly recalling the [Platonic-or is it Socratic?] condemnation." There's further uncertainty here, as I recall from my own research wanderings many years ago, in that the musical theorists of  Milton's day were not looking only to Plato or Cassiodorus for evidence on the meaning or psychological effects of the modes.

Of course, reading number 5 below, I wonder if Harold means to tease us both into alternatives and out of them.

My own suspicion, or slow hunch, is that Milton could profess varying and contradictory esthetics, but at heart was most interested in the esthetics of enormous bliss realized in relationships born of creation and creating.


On 1/6/11 11:01 AM, "Harold Skulsky" <hskulsky at smith.edu> wrote:

 Miltonic Esthetics: Hints on Where to Look and How

(1) Does M prefer French horticulture, or English, and why?
(2) Does M prefer chiaro or chiaroscuro, and why?
(3) Among the musical modes, which does M favor, and by what criteria?
(4) What and where are M's (implicit) views on architectural history and geography? Is M a Vitruvius man? Is M a Pliny Sr. man?
(5) Is M a Longinus man or an Aristotle man, or both, and why?
(6) Does M take sides in the gillyvor debate, and on what grounds? Does he indicate a familiarity with it? (7) Was there, by M's guess, an aesthetic ante lapsum? Irretrievable (salvo decoro) POST lapsum? Partly retrievable?
(8) Does the world system (Galilean or Keplerian) exhibit an aesthetic in M's view?
(9) On the general theory of the thing, is Kant useful here despite the lateness? Is Burke?

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