[Milton-L] Fallen vs. Unfallen Sex

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Thu Jul 21 13:46:56 EDT 2011

On being watched:

One of the differences between unfallen and fallen sex in PL is that
unfallen sex takes place in the privacy of the bower (exclusively, so far as
we know) and at night, whereas the hungry fallen sex takes place at
lunchtime and out in the open. The bower would screen the sex act from the
eyes of beasts (who know to stay out of the bower), angels, and any future
unfallen children. Adam instinctively recognizes the  decorum of privacy
when, upon meeting Eve, he leads her to the bower instead of mounting her in
front of God and everybody. Also the angels have their own "blissful bowers
/ Of amaranthine shade" (11.77-78).

An interesting if very minor point of contrast is that sex in the bower is
blessed by a shower of rose petals, whereas roses (an important symbol in
Paradise) are missing from the flowery mound where the first fallen sex act

I infer that in the PL world, sex has a proper place and time. And unfallen
sex is not watched by anyone except God, not even the narrator and reader,
who witness only a "not-turning-from" and a sleepy postcoital embrace.


On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 1:07 PM, Brendan Prawdzik <brendanprawdzik at gmail.com
> wrote:

> To JR:
> I initially made the point, that unfallen sex knows that it is being
> watched, with some doubt.  It seems in retrospect that I was wrong here, or
> at least, that I made this point too carelessly.  I think now that it would
> be more appropriate to say that unfallen sex is *indifferent* to whether it
> is being watched.  This indifference does, however, seem to be transforming
> already by the time that Eve asks Adam about the stars: "Wherefore all night
> long shine shine these, for whom/ This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut
> all eyes?"  The enjambment reveals a way in for Satan, who in the Book 5
> dream answers the question on this side of the ambivalence of "sight" (as
> both vision, to see, and spectacle, to be seen): "Heaven wakes with all his
> eyes,/ Whom to behold but thee?"  I am even more perplexed by the question
> of whether Adam and Eve are aware of being observed (and who *can* observe
> them) after just reading Joanna Picciotto's fascinating/strange view of the
> subject in the rich and vast *Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England*
> (2010), pp. 476-93, where she reads flowers as at once lenses and veils
> mediating our view of prelapsarian sex.  On this note, it would be
> interesting if in the upcoming film (I cringe) flowers and foliage obtruded
> upon our sight, blocking our view of the naked members, though imperfectly,
> opening up a glimpse here and there.  I doubt that the film will rise to
> that level of subtlety, one way or the other.
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