[Milton-L] Fallen vs. Unfallen Sex

Brendan Prawdzik brendanprawdzik at gmail.com
Wed Jul 20 18:57:21 EDT 2011


We would not call Michelangelo's *David* "naked," right?  But we would call
it "nude."  *David* is a nude.  David also appears "nude" from our
perspective, for we view him from an aesthetic distance, as art.  "Nude"
(but, crucially, not "denuded") carries a sense of moral indifference.

To be "denuded" is to be discovered (both senses) as naked.

If Michelangelo crafted a David who knew that his unclothed body was being
viewed and scrutinized by us, might we not then, seeing in his face and
gestures signs of this self-consciousness, call him "naked"?  It seems that
the "naked" body is being watched, and is conscious of this fact.  The
"nude" body of *David* is but an aesthetic form.  It does not know that it
is naked, that is, that we are looking at a semiotic nudity.  In this sense,
it is not naked.  But Milton does not use "nude," does he?

The key passages for this sense of nakedness as observed unclothed body
would be 9.1054-59, and 10.115-23, 220-23.

When the Son asks, "that thou art naked, who/ Hath told thee?" we see
clearly that nakedness, at least in the sense in which we typically use it,
entails the sense that one is naked.

Yet "naked" appears often in Book 4, too: "in naked Majestie seemed Lords of
all" (290); "So passd they naked on, nor shunned the sight/ Of God or angel"
(319-20); "her swelling Breast/ Naked met his under the flowing gold of her
loose tresses hid: he in delight ... smiled" (495-99); "to our Sire/ Brought
her in naked beauty more adorn'd/ More lovely than Pandora" (712-14); and
the passage of the bower described by Michael, where the sex does not have a
manifest observer, but multiple implicit observers -- God, angels, author,
readers, and of course, Satan.

"Guiltie Shame" is the key culprit here, no?  It is what moves "naked" from
knowing oneself naked, sans anxiety (see 4.319-20), to knowing oneself
naked, with debilitating anxiety.  In addition to the key passages from 9
and 10, one might quote *Animadversions*:

"Oh what a death it is to the Prelates to be thus unvisarded, thus uncas'd,
to have the Periwigs pluk't off that cover your baldnesse, your inside
nakedness thrown open to publick view."

On this note, may I propose two things?  First, that pornography is infused
with the sense that it is being watched, and plays to the emotive effect (as
others have said) that comes with watching sex that knows it is being
watched, without the spectator having his (pardon the gendering) own
nakedness, own gaze, "thrown open to publick view."  It plays to being
mastered as an object that is a subject aware of its objectification.  (Upon
this consciousness comes "Guiltie Shame," without which pornography merely
becomes aesthetic, erotic.  On this note, the meaning of "pornography" is
bound not to the form but to the eyes and culture of eyes that views the
form.  Yet the form also responds to the culture of eyes.)  Second, that
both unfallen and fallen sex is sex that knows that it is being viewed.
 However, after the fall, guilty shame enters the scene as the eyes that
observe now have an intense, painful, withering power in the imagination.
 (Do Adam and Eve know the *word* "naked" before the Fall?!)  Even if the
sex scenes were physically identical (the possibility of which I must
doubt), the psychological experience of the sex would be -- and clearly is,
with a view to the evidence -- essentially different. The best evidence for
this, in my view, is the phrase "[Eve's] Eye darted contagious fire."  I
believe that darting eyes, as appear also in 8.62-63, evince a gradual
transformation of subjectivity, from "naked" (as nude) to "naked" (as
painfully knowing oneself to be naked).  I believe that the seduction scene,
where the use of "gaze" becomes abundant and exceedingly complex, shows the
culmination and fruition of this process.

It is also here where Eve first raises the hypothesis of her secrecy, of
being "secret" (9.811).

Brendan Prawdzik



On Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 3:00 PM, richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:

> But how can sex between A and E be "casual," and it's certainly not
> "retail."  I
> don''t see how any of this is relevant to PL -- though I must say that,
> even to a
> mere male, the distinctions you note seem pretty obvious.
>
>
>
> ---- Original message ----
> >Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2011 17:39:28 -0400
> >From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu (on behalf of "Carol Barton"
> <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>)
> >Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Fallen vs. Unfallen Sex
> >To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> >
> >I think the distinction between fallen and unfallen sex might be
> >easier for women to comprehend, Richard (and that's
> >not--intentionally--a sexist comment). There is a real distinction for
> >most women between making love (unfallen sex, if you will) and the
> >sort of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am engagement that occurs between
> casual
> >partners (or those involved in a retail relationship).
> >
> >Nudity and nakedness are different? I had no idea . . . but with a
> >heat index of 102F and climbing (around 35C for those who don't
> >Fahrenheit) I think I'd welcome being either one . . .
> >
> >Best to all,
> >
> >Carol Barton
> >
> >
> >----- Original Message -----
> >From: "richard strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
> >To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> >Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 3:51 PM
> >Subject: Re: [Milton-L] It's Confirmed!
> >
> >
> >Well, I don't hold the view (which some philosophers--e.g. Roger
> >Scruton) hold
> >that great art can't be erotically stimulating.  Seems like a silly
> >view.  Lots of
> >great Renaissance art is very sexy.  MIlton insists -- surely with his
> >male readers
> >in mind (but not only, of course) -- on Eve's gorgeousness and her
> >absolute
> >nakedness. No reason for us, or her, to feel ashamed, and no reason
> >for us (or
> >her, or Adam) not to feel erotically aroused.
> >
> >And, to say something that will surely invite/incite some responses, I
> >think the
> >supposed contrast between the fallen and unfallen sex of A and E to be
> >quite
> >unconvincing.
> >
> >And, finally, I think the supposed distinction between nudity and
> >nakedness
> >(Kenneth Clark) also to be bogus (let's all pretend to be very
> >high-minded!).
> >
> >
> >
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