[Milton-L] Sin and other Improprieties

srevard at siue.edu srevard at siue.edu
Thu Oct 24 19:41:42 EDT 2013


Salwa, forgive me for replying at a tangent here--but the fact is the people on
this list, quite unintentionally and accidentally, have actually led us to see
something about Milton's composition of Paradise Lost that has never been seen
before:  he ADDED the Satan/Sin/Death segment after he had "finished" the poem,
something that (despite his humorous self-flagellations) Professor Machacek has
actually brought out. A whole session of papers should be devoted to this
insight at the next Milton Conference.  It would be quite wonderful to see and
hear eloquent and brilliant folk like Richard Strier and Greg Machacek, and
other treaders of the azure and of the burning marl, joust and tilt on this
lunar landscape.

Let me direct you to a good parallel, Pope's revision of the Rape of the Lock,
adding those supernatural figures and scenes to the earlier version.  In that
case, I think all the critics have cried Brilliant! rather than Screwup!
Milton, however, covered his tracks, did not publish the earlier version....

And in Milton's case, let me finagle thusly:  look at the later post by Louis
Schwartz in response to that of Steve Fallon, where both of them judge that
Milton succeeded in creating a better poem by this addition, and they say in
effect that this addition creates impressive philosophical and theological
resonances.  To which I would add:  not to mention dramatic shock, effective
theatrics, a really SURPRISING scene with characters drawn partly from Greek,
partly from OT/Apocryphal/NT passages (yo, Scholars of the List, please check
out your New Testament, relevant bits of which some of you have already rightly
cited).

I will allow that Milton could do wrong--he could do ANYthing!  But I tend to
detect more wrongdoing in reading "critics" than I do in reading Milton's
poems.


Okay, that's enough finagling in your faces for now.


Quoting Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net>:

> Professor Machacek wrote, "One sometimes wishes Milton had done at least one
> thing properly, just so one could get one's bearings."
>
>     I think that new ways of approaching Milton are exciting and open doors
> for diverse interpretations. I respect and appreciate all the ideas offered
> in this list by prominent scholars like Professor Machacek and others. In
> fact, I'm always looking for new ideas on Milton, some of them I find very
> intriguing and fresh. But the above statement is a little difficult for me to
> accept, if I understand it correctly, which I hope I do. The allegory of sin
> may not work in PL, but I do believe that other things in PL work properly.
> These are my responses: 1) Wars are not the only argument deemed heroic.  One
> must not forget that there is also the heroism of suffering of "the better
> fortitude / Of Patience and Heroic Martyrdom / Unsung" (9. 31-33) as shown in
> the characters of Eve and Christ. 2) Milton had to glorify Satan in order to
> put him down in the end as a "worm." This is the arch of the plot. Satan is
> not the hero, but evil is always more attractive than the good. Iago is more
> clever and appealing than Othello, does that make him the hero? 3) Milton
> "refuses to rhyme" because, as explained in the note to the Readers, he
> desires to write within the tradition of Homer and Virgil and not the
> medieval "barbarous Age." 4) If the statement means that Milton emerges as a
> candidate for hero in PL, it would be an approach based upon reading the
> biography of the author into the work.
> What makes literature exciting are our different interpretations. Thanks for
> sharing your interpretations on this list. I am honored to be part of this
> group of scholars, and I am learning a great deal about Milton.
> Best,
> Salwa
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Salwa Khoddam PhD
> Professor of English Emerita
> Oklahoma City University
> Author of *Mythopoeic Narnia:
> Memory, Metaphor, and Metamorphoses
> in The Chronicles of Narnia*
> skhoddam at cox.net
>   ----- Original Message -----
>   From: Gregory Machacek
>   To: John Milton Discussion List
>   Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:08 PM
>   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
>
>
>   -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----
>   To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>   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
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>   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>
>   To: John Milton Discussion List <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>
> 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> 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/
>   hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
>
>
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