[Milton-L] "erotic" versus

Alberto Cacicedo alc at mac.com
Wed Jul 20 19:18:13 EDT 2011


I think my wife's concern was that for the man who saw the Titian as a pornographic come-on, there'd be transference to live action on the street corner, or in the alleyway behind the store.  On a different point, I remember one late morning class when, having read through book four in class, one young man had a very noticeable erection as he got up to leave.  But then, he could just have been daydreaming.

On Jul 20, 2011, at 5:17 PM, richard strier wrote:

> 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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