[Milton-L] It's Confirmed!

Hannibal Hamlin hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
Wed Jul 20 17:45:06 EDT 2011

Surely the story of Pygmalion is all about the impossibility of neatly
separating the aesthetic and erotic? Given the broad range of human sexual
desires (I'll forgo details), I doubt there is any image or narrative that
someone couldn't find sexually arousing. Many English (and other) Bibles
included among their illustrations Bathsheba bathing naked. Perhaps this was
intended to teach a lesson about the dangers of looking into other people's
houses (though she's often, as in the Great Bible, outside), but I bet many
readers looked at it rather differently. The story of Susanna and the Elders
(naked bathing again) was another very popular subject for illustrations,
including, I gather, on painted wall cloths. Were such images always viewed

As for the scene in PL, surely we're in the position of Satan, viewing Adam
and Eve from his perspective? Perhaps we can recognize that we oughtn't to
have any kind of sexual response to their innocent nudity, but in our fallen
state can we help it? Isn't there also something somewhere about the
involuntary nature of (especially male) sexual arousal being a product of
the Fall?


On Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 5:15 PM, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:

> Stephen Dedalus defines pornography as something that makes you want to
> masturbate--at least that's what I think he meant about* kinesis*.
> Obviously this is not a rigorous critical theory, but maybe it makes sense
> to define pornography in terms of how it affects typical readers and
> viewers, allowing for differences of sexual orientation. Thus, "I know it
> when I see it."
> Milton's description of Adam and Eve asleep, naked and entangled under the
> shower of rose petals, is deliciously erotic but not pornographic, and it's
> one of the poem's greatest moments. The whole bliss of prelapsarian life is
> right there. And then the narrator complicates it with a dark foreshadowing.
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Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
Editor, *Reformation*
Co-curator, *Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King
James Bible*
The Ohio State University
164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall
Columbus, OH 43210-1340
hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
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