[Milton-L] Bk 3 J'accuse!

Watt, James jwatt at butler.edu
Sun Oct 27 23:08:09 EDT 2013


Fair enough, Carter Revard. A Christian, if she is anything, is never a "normal" congregant; indeed, a Christian is, like Lao Tsu, never what is called a Christian. The tao that can be taken is not the tao. Sweet Homer, singing his Iliad had no thoughts for Greece or Greek Civilization, he had a poem to sing. And sweet J.M. writes himself into corner after corner the better to escape the theologians.

jim watt
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of srevard at siue.edu [srevard at siue.edu]
Sent: Sunday, October 27, 2013 8:14 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3 J'accuse!

Time to herd you cats, who are all singing in the dark of Book Two, out into the
Holy Light of Book Three, which none of you appears to have read with either
interest or understanding. Richard, my brilliant and scholarly friend, I have
to try and explain why you need to consider what God and the Son say more
carefully:  they outline for us two central Christian doctrines, that of the
Atonement (the Son will die for mankind) and the Resurrection (the Son
vanquishes Death), which Milton found in Paul and James and other New Testament
texts, which are not only orthodox but commonplace and I think common to all
Christian sects.  God begins by explaining that he knows Satan will get out,
bamboozling Sin and bribing Death:  this is a point that most of our colleagues
who are discussing this seem unaware of (one of us even said he had not yet gone
on to look at Book 3!).

I know it is supererogatory, but I will try to write out as briefly as possible
and post separately an explanation of what I have just obstreperously asserted
above.  Meantime, I hope you all get many treats for your tricks this
Halloween.

I should acknowledge here that Stella has been the scholar who made ME read Book
3, beginning when we were at Yale Grad School and used to go up into the dim
stacks and like Adam and Eve taste of the Tree of Knowledge, not unmixed
perhaps with amorous thoughts and oeillades. It behooves me therefore to pass
along to colleagues some of what she has taught me, which you are all of course
free to partake of or to abstain from.

Carter Revard


Quoting "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu>:

> SUPPOSED PROBLEM FOR MY VIEW:   "at line 202 [the Father] goes on to say
> HOWEVER, even though by grace-given penitence he [man] may live obediently,
> nevertheless justice demands that he and all his posterity shall
> die--UNLESS ..."
>
> MY RESPONSE:  The problem of "justice" has already been taken care of when
> the Father explains why man can be forgiven, but Satan not.  His point is
> that justice does NOT require that mankind be condemned to death, etc.
>
> My overall point is that God's speech at the beginning of the Book -- a
> purely rationalistic, legalistic, and philosophical speech -- actually takes
> care of the problem of the fate of mankind.  I would hold that this speech is
> how M actually thinks, and the rest is M pretending -- perhaps to himself as
> well as to the world -- that he is a more normal sort of Christian than he
> actually was.  If M wrote CD -- which most Miltonists now seem to agree that
> he did -- then it's pretty clear that M was NOT a normal Christian.  The
> critique of the Trinity there is thoroughly rationalistic, as is the critique
> of Calvinism (see my piece in the New Milton Crit volume, or the earlier
> longer version of it in Milton Studies 38).
>
> RS
>
>
> ________________________________________
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of srevard at siue.edu
> [srevard at siue.edu]
> Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2013 4:27 AM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3
>
> But Richard, you seem to have stopped reading Book III at line 202.  Up to
> that
> point God has explained why he through grace will forgive Man; but at line
> 202
> he goes on to say HOWEVER, even though by grace-given penitence he may live
> obediently, nevertheless justice demands that he and all his posterity shall
> die--UNLESS "for him/ Some other able, and as willing, pay/ The rigid
> satisfaction, death for death./ Say, heavenly powers, where shall we find
> such
> love,/ Which of you will be mortal to redeem/ Man's mortal crime, and just
> the
> unjust to save:/ Dwells in all heaven charity so dear?" (lines 210-16)
>
> And here of course is where the Son volunteers to die for Man, saying
> (241ff):
> "On me let Death wreak all his rage;/Under his gloomy power I shall not long/
> Lie vanquished..../ But I shall rise victorious, and subdue/ My vanquisher,
> spoiled of his vaunted spoil;/ Death his death's wound shall then receive,
> and
> stoop/ Inglorious,/ Of his mortal sting disarmed..../ While by thee raised I
> ruin all my foes,/ Death last, and with his carcass glut the grave."
>
> You do notice that Milton here personifies (OOOH, Allegory, that serpent of
> the
> Nile, rears its ghastly head!!!) Death, gives him a "sting" that is the same
> one he held in Book Two?  And if you would like to see where Milton found
> Death
> with a sting, and found him and Sin personified, you might want to read
> Paul's
> Epistle to the Romans, especially for instance Chapter 5, verses 12 etc.
>
>
> Quoting "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu>:
>
> > SUPPOSEDLY KNOCK-DOWN POINT:  "not JUST granting humans "forgiveness" but
> > redeeming them from Death."
> >
> > It's not clear to me that these are different.  What else could divine
> > forgiveness mean?
> >
> >
> > ________________________________________
> > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> > [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of srevard at siue.edu
> > [srevard at siue.edu]
> > Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 7:11 PM
> > To: John Milton Discussion List
> > Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3
> >
> > Aieee!  you not only stepped in it, but as Molly Bloom said of a somewhat
> > different activity, "up to the neck almost"!
> >
> > I think if you go back and READ the dialogue between Father and Son (which
> I
> > have just done), you will see that the issue is not JUST granting humans
> > "forgiveness" but redeeming them from Death, which is what the Son steps up
> > to
> > do by suffering death for them. Let fellow listers correct me if I am
> wrong,
> > but this, I think, is hardly sham Christian; I think it is doctrine shared
> by
> > Puritans and Catholics, Laudians and Calvinists. God does explain this
> quite
> > clearly and the Son echoes and amplifies it (and incidentally, that other
> > lion
> > named Aslan illustrates how it works, if you want to reread the Narnia
> > stories
> > where C. S. Lewis invents another female version of Sin). Milton draws here
> > on,
> > among other narrative traditions, the Harrowing of Hell, a story that
> quivers
> > within the Sin/Death/Satan episode but is not "realized" until God and the
> > Son
> > explicitly evoke it.
> >
> >
> > Quoting "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu>:
> >
> > > OK, now I'll really step in it.
> > >
> > > About Book 3:  as far as I can tell, the Son's offer to bear death, etc,
> is
> > > completely unnecessary to Milton's conception (further proof of how far
> he
> > > is/was from traditional, normal Christianity).  It's all a sham, and
> > another
> > > case (like moments that sound Calvinist) of M trying to appear/sound
> > > orthodox.  Here's why it's a sham:  Milton has already, at the very
> > beginning
> > > of Bk 3, had God the Father (the only real God) explain that He intends
> to
> > > forgive man's fall on purely moral/philosophical grounds -- man was
> misled
> > by
> > > another -- and contrasting this with Satan's fall, which He will not
> > forgive.
> > >  No further mechanism or explanation for man's forgiveness is needed.
> And
> > > it's all decided  on that basis.  Already.
> > >
> > > It seems to me that the normal reading of Bks 2 and 3 in this regard has
> it
> > > backwards -- Satan's heroism is real (he really doesn't know what's going
> > to
> > > happen), while the Son's is totally superfluous.  I'm not saying that
> Satan
> > > doesn't indulge in some manipulation and theatrics, but that he his doing
> > > something that, from the point of view of the fallen angels, really
> > > can't/won't be done otherwise.  But this is less important than the point
> > > above.  And I'm not saying that M doesn't get some of the normal
> experience
> > > of Christianity from the episode, just that it is not actually needed for
> > his
> > > story and his overall position.
> > >
> > > Coeur de Lion
> > >
> > > ________________________________________
> > > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> > > [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of srevard at siue.edu
> > > [srevard at siue.edu]
> > > Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 3:41 PM
> > > To: John Milton Discussion List
> > > Subject: Re: [Milton-L] oops, I forgot one
> > >
> > > Well asked, Alan. For instance, how about Hypocrisy, who shows up when
> > Satan
> > > is
> > > disguising himself as a stripling angel in order to bamboozle Uriel?
> > >
> > > Does everyone agree that Milton carefully placed the Death/Sin/Satan
> drama
> > > near
> > > the end of Book II in order to set up the opening of Book III, the poem's
> > > doctrinal center in which the dramatic encounter of God and Son so
> > precisely
> > > and on so many levels contrastingly parallels that between Satan and
> Death?
> > >
> > > Quoting alan horn <alanshorn at gmail.com>:
> > >
> > > > Is all the figurative language to be stripped from the poem or just
> this
> > > > one episode?
> > > >
> > > > I want to second Jim R’s suggestion to look back at Harold Skulsky’s
> > series
> > > > of posts from a couple of years ago explaining the genre and function
> of
> > > > the passage in question and citing precedents in classical epic for
> > > > Milton’s use of this convention.
> > > >
> > > > Alan Horn
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
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