[Milton-L] Sin, Death, and other improprieties

Watt, James jwatt at butler.edu
Tue Oct 29 20:28:04 EDT 2013


Dear Professor Khoddam:

Of course you are correct that literary criticism is an honorable activity
and that it rejects, out of hand, such juvenile notions as "stirring up the
gang." As to Mr. Lewis, I agree that his criticism of P.l. XI & XII was much
more soundly grounded in his beliefs and that he attempted to be as
fair (I don't know that "objectivity" is either a possible or desirable attribute
in literary criticism) as possible in his presentation and that he never called
for excision of the books in question. My response to Mr. Rivarossa was
simply to inform him that his inquiry into the usefulness of the whole thread
overlooked the rather obvious point of its uselessness. Mr. Lewis's seriousness
and fairness are evident to any reader of The Allegory of Love. His theology,I think
you'll agree is rather less impressive than his literary judgement.

If the question is seriously advanced that excising the Allegory of Sin & Death
from P. L. will improve the poem and rescue the poet from a lapse in aesthetic
judgement, of course, it will attract supporters and frustrate those who, in
denying it, find themselves in the unfortunate position of being apologists for 
the out-moded and inferior. It's my judgement that attempting to engage with
such revisionists should only be undertaken, if at all, in a spirit of fun. Which,
by the way, is not inappropriate to literary criticism or philosophical and
theological debates. Milton, himself, is not above mocking his adversaries.

Anyway, I'm sorry that my (obviously failed) attempt at humor upset you.

Sincerely,

Jim Watt
 
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Salwa Khoddam [skhoddam at cox.net]
Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 3:32 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin, Death, and other improprieties

I am not sure that the past discussion about Milton's "flaws" was really to
"stir up the gang." I do hate to think that literary debates are done for
this purpose, even though the references to "sides" that were made were
unfortunate and not helpful to clarify matters. As for Lewis, his criticism
of PL was based upon his beliefs, and I admit they are strong, but he
attempts to be as objective as possible. Yes, he had conflicts with T. S.
Eliot and Leavis, but his statements are true to his beliefs. Specifically,
his statements about books 11 and 12 as "an untransmuted [not
undigested--very different!] lump of futurity" are based upon his views that
they are  "inartistic" structurally, although there is in them "fine
moments, and a great recovery at the very end." He certainly was not trying
to excise them. Maybe he was trying to "stir" up his gang-of-one, Charles
Williams, whom he respected as a critic of PL, and to whom he dedicated A
Preface to Paradise Lost.
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: "Watt, James" <jwatt at butler.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 12:50 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin, Death, and other improprieties


> Dario Rivarossa:
>
> it wasn't about Renaissance practice; it wasn't even about P.L.;
> it was about stirring up the gang. Remember C.S. Lewis's remark
> about Books XI & XII being "undigested lumps of futurity"? Same
> thing.
>
> jim watt
> ________________________________________
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Dario Rivarossa
> [dario.rivarossa at gmail.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 8:54 AM
> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
> Subject: [Milton-L] Sin, Death, and other improprieties
>
> Having been off home in these past few days, I found a synthesis of
> the M-L discussion about Sin and Death in Prof. H. Jeffery Hodges'
> blog. Here's the brief remarks I posted there:
>
> Your reconstruction of Milton's psychological process is vivid and
> witty, but I can't get the point of Machaceck's problem. Renaissance
> poems were full of allegorical figures. Milton, besides, had a big
> classical culture, so he could easily remember Virgil's description of
> the entrance of 'hell' in Aeneid 6.273-281, where a lot of allegorical
> monsters were set, the first two of which being basically Death and
> Sin (i.e. Grief and Remorse, v. 274). Then Milton reinterpreted this
> in the light of James and Paul ("per peccatum mors," "through / out of
> Sin, Death did come"), of course.
>
>>Hodges: The problem lay in having real characters in a historical
>>narrative interacting with unreal allegorical characters in a purely
>>symbolic fable.
>
> But precisely this was normal in Renaissance poetry and drama -- as
> well as in Medieval plays before. See e.g. the whole episode of
> Alcina's island in "Orlando Furioso," that shows a sort of hell on
> earth (in fact, Tasso will draw on this when describing the actual
> hell).
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