[Milton-L] process v end; agreement
hskulsky at smith.edu
Tue Jul 26 15:34:52 EDT 2011
To a post of mine with the usual dogmatic strut (a top hat on a Bradford
millionaire, as the poet says), Richard Strier replies with his usual
Of course he's right; if literary interp. is anything, it's multistep.
Which lets back in the jealousy-libido reading. Which is (I suppose)
just what I should have expected.
Just to avoid total capitulation, the prospect of a crux looks good to
me at this point. As Rahm Emanuel says, never let a good crux go to
>>> richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu> 7/26/2011 1:37 PM >>>
Certainly, agreement is possible -- we're not the federal government,
after all -
- but I think that it is important to recognize reading, especially
reading, as a multiple-step process. Of course one must attend to the
movement of sentences, and take seriously the order in which elements
received (this is the Iser-Alpers-Fish contribution). But one must
seriously the entire shape of a sentence when one has gotten to the end
And with a writer like Milton, steeped as he is in Latin, the final
word or clause
often is (as I needn't tell Professor Skulsky!) the point of the
construction. And I
do think that the "drift and scope" way of reading does suggest getting
end before one starts analyzing.
But, even from the processive point of view, a "this nor that"
one to see the items as strongly parallel, and the "reign'd, nor"
gives one only a very weak stop after "reign'd," so the movement is
I think, though, that the best way to resolve this crux is to see it as
Milton is simply trying to pack too much into too few words here, and
not quite sure himself where his focus is. I don't think that we harm
by seeing a bit of clumsiness here.
---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2011 12:38:17 -0400
>From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu (on behalf of "Harold
<hskulsky at smith.edu>)
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] from unlibidinous to non-jealous
>To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> "My suggestion is -- and I will reiterate it -- that
> we read the last part of the sentence from the
> ending." Thus Richard Strier.
> I'm afraid I don't understand the idea of reading
> sentences backward. I tend to stick to the default
> assumption of pragmatics, that the drift and scope
> of utterances unfold in time, with earlier
> developments providing the context for developments
> down the line. (I'm not sure M's pragmatics differed
> on this point.)
> If the assumption is not acceptable, then I guess we
> need to agree to disagree. But until further
> notice I'll proceed as if agreement is still
> Given the principle of progressive (not regressive)
> drift, M’s contrafactual line of thought goes like
> If Raphael had coveted Eve, this bad behavior would
> have been excusable [not, of course, justifiable]
> given her dazzling beauty. BUT (just to avoid
> misunderstanding) IN FACT an unfallen angel is
> incapable of coveting somebody else's wife, so
> Raphael doesn't covet Eve.
> Adam’s incapacity for jealousy simply doesn’t
> serve the logically required purpose of the BUT IN
> FACT--that is, of making sure we understand that the
> COUNTERFACTUAL ABOUT RAPHAEL (the excusableness of
> Raphael's coveting of Eve) is counterfactual though
> The point of the reference to Adam's incapacity for
> jealousy is to forestall a parallel misreading of a
> second true counterfactual (the excusableness of
> Adam's jealousy given Eve's dazzling beauty), a
> contrafactual that if taken as factual would once
> again compromise the innocence of the scene.
> Why does M bother to warn us about the
> counterfactuality of both true conditionals? Who,
> contemplating Eve ministering naked, would entertain
> cynical thoughts either about Raphael’s libido or
> about Adam’s suspicions of Raphael’s libido?
> Answer: the postlapsarian reader. It's people
> harnessed with imaginations like ours who might
> convert M's scene into a version of Manet’s
> Déjeuner sur l’herbe equipped with a running
> docent commentary by Henry Miller.
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