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

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Tue Oct 29 22:45:56 EDT 2013


Thanks for your response, Jim. No need to apologize. I am the one to 
apologize for failing to see your remarks as attempts at humor.
You're right about using the term "fair" rather than "objective" to describe 
Lewis's literary criticism. What meant  to him most was to focus on the text 
to receive its meaning. As for mockery, Lewis himself engaged in that, 
targeting most "modern" authors and poets. But that's a different issue for 
a different list.
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 7:28 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Sin, Death, and other improprieties


> 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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>
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