[Milton-L] Debbie does Eden

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Wed Jul 27 19:53:00 EDT 2011

Much appreciation for Harold Skulsky's as-usual lucid approach to the
recent debates.  To me, questions 1 and 2 were the only questions ever
at stake; the possibility of 3 was always present for me.  I attempted
to answer question 1 with a coherent, working definition of
pornography: its primary, if not only, interest is in sexual
stimulation.  Since PL is clearly more complex than that in its most
erotic moments, my argument goes, it does not qualify as porn.

The most historically meaningful and rigorous approach would be to
limit our discussion to 17thC (and earlier -- the entire Greek and
Roman tradition as it was available to Milton should be included)
eroticism and/or porn.  However, this insistence ignores that the
question about PL being comparable to pornography in the "Debbie Does
Dallas" sense is still live, judging from Hannibal Hamlin's most
recent post.  I will say that I agree that most literary porn, having
literary qualities, will completely change the ground of the
discussion and create the possibility for greater nuance.  My point
here is that it will in fact change the ground of the discussion.

Hannibal's post, I think, accurately conveys the difficulty of making
any kind of intentional argument, which my definition of pornography
requires.  But I think Harold Skulsky meaningfully addresses this
concern, as does Hannibal's own reference to Boogie Nights.  Porn is
not that subtle.  If I recall, the director in BN was concerned about
porn becoming less artistic, about it investing less and less in plot,
character, acting, costume, etc.  It is fair to say that this
director, at least, wanted to be an artist.  It is also fair to say
that he may not have achieved his desire (girl in rollerskates in a
limo?), and also fair to say that by his own comments the industry
clearly went the way of manufactured, homogeneous product rather than
art: it's all pretty well the same with a few variations.

The only responsible way to pursue -this- line of questioning would be
to post clear examples of contemporary porn to the list.  That's
clearly not going to happen.  And I think that fact, by itself,
settles the question (though I think it was already settled).  We're
more than happy to post Milton's most explicit descriptions of Eve and
prelapsarian sex, but we're not going to post still shots of recent
porn films for discussion.  And I don't think we should.

Hannibal did come down on the side of "not porn," of course, by
acknowledging that PL is not "just trying to get us off."  But he does
raise very good questions about voyeurism.  I guess my question about
PL is this: what is it that we really see?  Milton doesn't write an
explicit sex scene.  Aren't we providing a lot of detail ourselves?

Much appreciation for Richard's and Hugh's responses.

Jim R

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