[Milton-L] It's Confirmed!

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Wed Jul 20 16:30:16 EDT 2011

I would say the difference between the erotic and the pornographic
from the reader's/viewer's point of view is the emotional effect of
the scene upon the reader.   I would say that the erotic involves
physical passion that can include the sexual but is never limited to
the sexual (wider range of emotions, even if most of them are
visceral, but the object of desire is desired for a range of reasons).
 Eve was mentally and emotionally violated but not sexually, protected
only by the fact that she was unaware of the nature of violation.

The pornographic, on the other hand, involves only the sexual.  It
provides a rather emotionally flat experience for the viewer as the
viewer does not care about the persons in the scene as persons, only
as objects.  The dominant emotion in pornography can be hatred, for
that matter, but I don't think hate-filled sex would be very erotic at

The sexual is not always erotic -- sometimes it is frankly disgusting,
as in parts of Eyes Wide Shut, which is one of the few films in which
I've wished for the male protagonist -not- to have sex (testimony to
Kubrick's brilliance on my part).  Eyes Wide Shut could qualify as
pornography on the basis of a few scenes, but the dominant emotion is
not sexual or erotic -- it is a sense of fear and danger and a desire
for the preservation of a marriage.   The erotic, for that matter, is
not necessarily pornographic or even explicitly and visibly sexual.
Some of the most erotic scenes I've seen involved just the exchange of
a glance between two fully-clothed partners.

The nudity in Schindler's List is neither erotic nor pornographic.  It
arouses pity and fear.

Milton goes to great lengths to describe the physical perfections of
Adam and Eve (am I right in thinking he spends more time on Eve's?),
but although they are nude the entire time, and even "naked" in
Nancy's sense of the word, as a reader I am usually unaware of the
fact.  What is most present to the consciousness of Adam and Eve is
everything but their nudity -- their skin is the clothing over their
souls, which is only undressed by language.  The sexual is not
mediated by nudity alone until after the fall.  That is how I think
Milton believed things ought to be.  I think that we are capable of
such feelings at times too.  It's not a matter of being artificially
highminded, but recognizing a wider range of emotions than just an on
and off switch for sex.

Jim R

On Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 4:13 PM, richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu> wrote:
> And the difference, from a reader/viewer's point of view, is...?

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