[Milton-L] Bk 3 and Jeffrey Shoulson's link

alan horn alanshorn at gmail.com
Sun Oct 27 15:44:10 EDT 2013

Jim R,

Please consider the idea that that the allegorical figures of Sin and Death
are not characters of the same order as Satan or Adam and Eve. Compare the
figure of Fama in the Aeneid. Your assumption that such figures should be
novelistically developed, naturalistic characters rather than mere
personifications of abstract notions is based, I believe, on a misreading
of the allegorical mode MIlton is employing here. These figures and their
actions are in fact nothing but elaborate metaphors for the reader to
decode. This convention is indeed strange to contemporary readers who have
inherited the Romantic distaste for overt allegory as schematic and
artificial. But just because something seems weird to you doesn’t
necessarily make it unsuccessful in its own terms.

While I generally have little sympathy for the views of C. S. Lewis, I
share his hope, quoted in a recent LRB article, that the study of the
literature of the past can “lift people out of (so to speak) their
chronological provincialism by plunging them into the thought and feeling
of ages other than their own.”

Alan Horn
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