[Milton-L] "erotic" versus

richard strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Jul 20 17:17:28 EDT 2011

So how is a viewer who is sexually attracted to (some) women (and perhaps 
[some] men as well) to react to a painting of a mythological erotic scene by, say, 
Titian?  Do we want to have a "relationship" with Danae?  Does the painting 
inspire a "desire for companionship"?  Do we care about her "as a person"?  

And if the answer to these questions is "no," does it mean that we are to be 
condemned, or that the painting is?

As Leonard Barkan has pointed out, masturbating on statues has an ancient 
lineage.  (If you ask me whether anyone has masturbated while reading PL, I 
would say, "I dont know, but I hope so."

---- Original message ----
>Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2011 16:53:56 -0400
>From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu (on behalf of Alberto Cacicedo 
<alc at mac.com>)
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] It's Confirmed!  
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>   By chance the current issue of Newsweek has an
>   article, "The John Next Door," that treats the
>   question of pornography together with prostitution.
>    That's lumping categories together, I think.  The
>   article calls participants in either category "sex
>   buyers," and reports that the "buyers" are more
>   prone to violence, rape, etc.--generally an
>   objectification of the object of desire.  The
>   article reports on a study, "Comparing Sex Buyers
>   with Men Who Don't Buy Sex," by Melissa Farley,
>   director of Prostitution Research and Education,
>   associated with the San Francisco Women's Center.
>    The article does not make clear whether there are
>   distinctions to be made between consumers of
>   pornography and consumers of prostitution, probably
>   an important difference.  On the other hand, I
>   remember my male-centered surprise when, married for
>   less than a year, my wife told me that she hated
>   getting off the bus at night because on the corner
>   of the bus stop there was a store that sold
>   pornographic magazines.  She always felt potentially
>   endangered by what might, or rather would be going
>   through the minds of the browsers of those
>   magazines.  Pornography produces such fear, but the
>   erotic does not.  Maybe that's a way of
>   distinguishing the erotic from the pornographic:
>    pornography elicits desire to assault an object,
>   potentially at least, where the erotic elicits a
>   desire for companionship with a person.  No doubt
>   there's a large element of viewer's/reader's
>   response at issue, though.
>   On Jul 20, 2011, at 4:30 PM, James Rovira wrote:
>     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
>     all.
>     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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