[Milton-L] "erotic" versus

Brendan Prawdzik brendanprawdzik at gmail.com
Thu Jul 21 17:18:44 EDT 2011

I'm reluctant to enter this particular debate, but I do think that the
following two passages show Milton's awareness of the problem that a
paradisal Eve poses to the fallen reader ~ a problem that he's most
interested in developing.  Whether or not he intended to make his Eve
sexually arousing, he certainly seems aware that this might be a consequence
of his portrayal!

Naturally, would love to hear your respective thoughts.


(In the second passage, note esp. the behavior of the plants, who expect to
receive from Eve precisely the physical care that she is at present not
receiving from her husband.)

>From Book V:

Mean while at Table Eve
> Ministerd naked<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_5/notes.shtml#ministerd>,
> and thir flowing cups
> With pleasant liquors crown'd<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_5/notes.shtml#crowned>:
> O innocence [ 445 ]
> Deserving Paradise! if ever, then,
> Then had the Sons of God<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_5/notes.shtml#sons_of_god> excuse
> to have bin
> Enamour'd at that sight; but in those hearts
> Love unlibidinous reign'd, nor jealousie
> Was understood, the injur'd Lovers Hell.

>From Book VIII:

So spake our Sire, and by his count'nance seemd
> Entring on studious thoughts abstruse, which Eve [ 40 ]
> Perceaving where she sat retir'd<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_8/notes.shtml#retird> in
> sight,
> With lowliness Majestic from her seat,
> And Grace that won who saw<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_8/notes.shtml#won> to
> wish her stay,
> Rose, and went forth among her Fruits and Flours,
> To visit how they prosper'd, bud and bloom, [ 45 ]
> Her Nurserie; they at her coming sprung
> And toucht by her fair tendance gladlier grew.
> Yet went she not, as not with such discourse
> Delighted, or not capable her eare
> Of what was high: such pleasure she reserv'd, [ 50 ]
> Adam relating, she sole Auditress;
> Her Husband the Relater she preferr'd
> Before the Angel, and of him to ask
> Chose rather: hee, she knew would intermix
> Grateful digressions, and solve high dispute [ 55 ]
> With conjugal Caresses<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_8/notes.shtml#conjugal>,
> from his Lip
> Not Words alone pleas'd her. O when meet now
> Such pairs, in Love and mutual Honour joyn'd?
> With Goddess-like demeanour forth she went;
> Not unattended, for on her as Queen [ 60 ]
> A pomp<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_8/notes.shtml#line61> of
> winning Graces waited still,
> And from about her shot Darts of desire
> Into all Eyes to wish her still in sight<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_8/notes.shtml#wishher>
> .

On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 1:59 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

> I believe you when you say that at least you haven't meant to change
> your position, Richard.
> You're missing an important qualification of my definition of
> pornography -- it is intended "primarily" if not "only" to provide
> "sexual stimulation."
> Do you really think Milton consciously intended his audience to be
> sexually aroused by parts of PL?  I'm not saying that no one can be
> aroused by parts of PL.  The question here is about Milton's intent.
> I think we need to clearly think about what we mean when we're making
> claims about intentionality, however.  These are claims about the
> author, not about possible audience responses.
> Have you ever seen the film The Last Word?  Ray Romano's character has
> some funny dialog about the things that arouse him at times and why.
> No one would attribute his spontaneous, uncontrolled state of arousal
> in the produce aisle to the nature of the objects themselves.  He
> didn't, anyway.
> Jim R
> On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 4:45 PM, richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
> wrote:
> > 1) I do not think I've changed my position at all.  Certainly have not
> meant to.
> >
> > If pornography is defined as "representations that intend to cause erotic
> > arousal" (in some part of their audience), I am happy to reiterate the
> claim that
> > PL and many other great works of art are (at least in parts)
> pornographic.
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