[Milton-L] Sin and other Improprieties

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Oct 23 12:00:02 EDT 2013


Well, the point, such as it is, has to do with the shift in representational mode, from the historical-mimetic to personification allegory.  I can see the attraction of Sin from Satan's head -- a brilliant adaptation of a classical motif -- but still think it a mistake, since sin is not an entity but a quality of actions/thoughts, etc.  I find Chaos as a character unbelievably tedious and silly, and think, like Johnson, that it's one of Milton's unfortunate and elephantine attempts at humor.  And Death, of course, needs to be internal to nature, not a separate entity (the presentation of sickness, etc in XI-XII does better with this).

All epic poems are audacious; Milton nor more so than Homer or Vergil; but M is, of course, as Johnson said, up there with them.  But not at all moments.  And as the good Dr. said about Shakespeare (about whom he also had some doubts), when he needs to be great he is.  But surely we need to recognize when Milton (or Homer) nods (or just gets a bad idea).

RS
________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Gregory Machacek [Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 7:47 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin and other Improprieties

Well, if forced to stick to a point, I guess I would argue as follows: if one grants that Milton's poem is massively or radically Improper, then to object to one of its improprieties is to strain at a gnat while one swallows a camel.

I don't know whether your "clever and charming" does grant me my larger point, but if so, then the allegory represents Milton disappropriating even from himself, from the narrative proprieties that he establishes and observes elsewhere in the poem.  Seems, somehow, proper.

But I can also be content to be clever, charming and impertinent.

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College


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From: "Richard A. Strier"
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Date: 10/23/2013 12:55AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin and other Improprieties

That is all very clever and charming, but I don't see that it's to the point.

RS

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of JD Fleming [jfleming at sfu.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:29 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin and other Improprieties

*like*

________________________________
From: "Gregory Machacek" <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, 22 October, 2013 20:08:06
Subject: [Milton-L] Sin and other Improprieties

But, as Johnson asked of another impropriety, "who would take [it] away?"  Indeed, we must be thankful most for Milton's improprieties, for an Impropriety so astounding it perhaps merits allegorical status.  The poem itself is a massive impropriety, wars hitherto the only argument heroic deemed.  Once one starts down the path, one finds it hard to think of a single impropriety Milton omits to perpetrate.  He refuses to rhyme.  To stay within the lines.  Eschews a national subject.  Doesn't give us a clear hero.  His giant foils his knight.  Or himself emerges as a candidate for hero.  Or as more appealing than the poem's God.  One sometimes wishes Milton had done at least one thing properly, just so one could get one's bearings.



Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College


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From: "Richard A. Strier"
Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
Date: 10/22/2013 08:01PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin

I'm afraid I agree with Addison on the impropriety of the allegory.

RS
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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Kevin Donovan [Kevin.Donovan at mtsu.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 9:45 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin

And a fine paper it was, Diana! I’ll be drawing on it in my teaching this week.

Kevin J. Donovan
Professor of English
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 70
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Phone: 615-898-5898
Fax: 615-494-8744

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Diana
Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 9:34 AM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin

I recommend an excellent article by Andrew Escobedo: "Allegorical Agency and the Sin of Angels" (ELH 75 (2008).  I just presented an article at Murfreesboro that had a section of Sin, but it's not "out" anywhere yet.
Diana T Benet
-----Original Message-----
From: Arlene Stiebel <amstiebel at verizon.net<mailto:amstiebel at verizon.net>>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>>
Sent: Fri, Oct 4, 2013 12:37 pm
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin
I'd recommend CS Lewis: A Preface to Paradise Lost as an essential resource.

-- Arlene


On Oct 4, 2013, at 9:15 AM, Brendan Prawdzik <brendanprawdzik at gmail.com<mailto:brendanprawdzik at gmail.com>> wrote:


Hi Hannibal and all,

I'm much interested in the way that Sin emerges, almost like a cancer, from the head of Satan ("in sight of all the Seraphim").  (We see something like the raising of Pandemonium.) The description of his semi- or unconscious state is peculiar and suggestive.  Sin as product of passivity, of non-agency.  This idea seems related to her status as rigid allegory (and is of course associated with rigidly anti-feminist exegesis, representing in her serpentine, grotesque features not only Spenser's Errour but also the woman-snake tempter who appears in some Fall dramas and paintings).  As rigid allegory she is self-referential, not a product of active choice and deliberation, but of an entropic agency in relation to prepackaged, inflexible "truths" or abstractions.  What is "sin" in Paradise Lost?  This idea of fixed self-referentiality recalls Satan's narcissistic love for her as a product of his own mind (that leapt out sans his control).  She is the divesture of authority masked as ultimate authority.  She is complicated!  (Your student should certainly look at Victoria Kahn's essay on allegory and the sublime in Paradise Lost.)

Regards,

Brendan

On Fri, Oct 4, 2013 at 10:41 AM, Hannibal Hamlin <hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com<mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>> wrote:
Friends and colleagues,

I realize this is a bit of a cheat (I do have ideas of my own), but I'm curious to know what you all think might be the essential reading on Milton's allegorical Sin in PL. I have a senior undergrad interested in writing a thesis on the topic. We had a discussion of Sin on the list not too long ago, so many of you may have ideas fresh in mind.

Yours gratefully,

Hannibal



--
Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
Author of The Bible in Shakespeare, now available through all good bookshops, or direct from Oxford University Press at http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199677610.do
Editor, Reformation
The Ohio State University
164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall
Columbus, OH 43210-1340
hamlin.22 at osu.edu/<http://hamlin.22@osu.edu/>
hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com<mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>

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James Dougal Fleming
Associate Professor
Department of English
Simon Fraser University
778-782-4713

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