[Milton-L] improving paradise lost

Neil Forsyth neil.forsyth at unil.ch
Wed Oct 23 20:12:18 EDT 2013

Dear colleagues

I rarely contribute to the Milton list, though I try to stay more or less up to date as lurker. But I must say this thread, animated by a brilliantly witty discourse about Milton's 'impropriety' by Gregory Machacek and sustained by a splendidly grumpy Richard Strier's Johnsonian objection to Sin and Death as allegory, has revived my appreciation. Keep it going if you can (I have nothing to add myself). It is indeed liberating to be invited to excise hundreds of lines from the poem as in bad taste, or aesthetically inconsistent... I had never quite got that far before, even when reading Addison and Johnson. Rewrite the damn poem! Defend it if you can. Enjoy the extraordinary imagination of the womb of Sin, those dogs and the poor woman's pain, and then link it to Chaos as womb. The mind reels. 'Perhaps her grave'. Brilliant. 

The reference to Vergil's Fama makes an eloquent comparison but surely leaves Milton's 'inventio' streets ahead, if that's the game we are playing. I wish i had read through this exchange when writing my new piece on Satan for Louis Schwartz's volume. And I would have been as uncertain as ever on how to evaluate the Satanic family, the only one fully present in the poem (Milton is not Dickens after all.. by which I mean the Dickens who constantly invents non-biological families as critiques of the ones in which the social norm operates: eg Daniel Peggotty's houseboat versus David's disfunctional parents, birth and step). Sin, I think, is there before we meet Eve in order to modify and deflect some of the traditional misogynist reactions to Eve. But in any case I'll save the whole exchange to steal for something else I'll write later. Many thanks to all. 

Neil Forsyth
neil.forsyth at unil.ch

On Oct 24, 2013, at 12:27 AM, Gregory Machacek wrote:

> Well, I have dinner before prep, so I haven't looked at the text yet, but I've started playing it through in my mind generally, and this immediately occurs to me.  We're going to lose our only other female character.  That's going to feel like a loss.  A lot of stuff for Eve not to resonate with any more (problematic resonances in their own way, I know, but still, poetically, resonances)
> Undeterred,
> Greg Machacek
> Professor of English
> Marist College
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