[Milton-L] Lesser forms

J. Michael Gillum mgillum at ret.unca.edu
Wed Oct 30 13:37:23 EDT 2013


"Does this tail make me look fat?"


On Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 1:01 PM, Schwartz, Louis <lschwart at richmond.edu>wrote:

>  Michael,****
>
> ** **
>
> You’re right in the sense that the narrative moves in a way that suggests
> some possible choice.  This is I think part of the effect Milton wants us
> to feel and puzzle-over.  However, at the same time that we register the
> sense that she has a choice, we have to also register the force of her
> allegorical name and “nature,” which have a kind of rhetorical or
> representational gravity (if that makes sense), and she can’t escape their
> force and logic any more than her son can (despite his desire to devour his
> mother), and still be what she is, an outgrowth or outcome or child of
> Satan’s creaturely refusal of obedience.  That she has her own eerie and
> “irreal” reality in the palpable world of the narrative action is necessary
> for the complex affective and intellectual effect Milton wanted the episode
> to have (something I think he very much succeeded in giving it).****
>
> ** **
>
> Louis****
>
> ** **
>
> ===========================****
>
> Louis Schwartz****
>
> Professor of English****
>
> English Department****
>
> University of Richmond****
>
> 28 Westhampton Way****
>
> Richmond, VA  23173****
>
> (804) 289-8315****
>
> lschwart at richmond.edu****
>
>  ****
>
>  ****
>
>  ****
>
> ** **
>
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] *On Behalf Of *J. Michael Gillum
> *Sent:* Wednesday, October 30, 2013 12:49 PM
>
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Lesser forms****
>
> ** **
>
> Louis Schwartz,****
>
> ** **
>
> Thank you for this very rich and insightful post. However, in reading the
> episode, I do not feel that Sin has to open the gate because of her
> allegorical essence and mechanically, in the absence of personal will.
> Rather it seems like a clearly motivated choice that she makes. She even
> engages in a little bit of deliberation, a behavior that Andrew Escobedo
> associates (correctly, I think) with mimetic characterization.****
>
> ** **
>
> On Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 10:53 AM, Schwartz, Louis <lschwart at richmond.edu>
> wrote:****
>
> I would add, because it's had some impact on my own reading of the
> episodes, that as a mode of representation allegory also tends to present
> characters who have severely limited wills--they must act out the program
> of the abstractions they represent (this is why in Milton's allegory Death
> cannot eat Sin, although he wants to).  There is, in other words, a
> privation or limitation of will inherent in the mode compared to mimetic
> narrative.  This is not a "problem" in a work that is entirely allegorical,
> where there is no expectation that a character called "Sin" might have
> anything like a free will (in such texts only the main subject of a
> "psychomachia" has a "free will"), but in Milton's mixed work it arises as
> an issue.  Sin seems in so many ways like a creature (she is the offspring
> of one, and has offspring herself, for example), but she seems not to have
> free will--a fact underlined with pointed irony by her being given the key,
> which she of course uses to open the gates (gates which we are told she
> does not have the power to close).  Also her suffering, without having
> chosen to be what she is, is an important and signifying "problem."   ****
>
> ** **
>
> This aspect of the mode and it's contrast with what we might call
> creaturely free will in the mimetic majority of the epic is perhaps even
> more pointedly underlined by the ways in which Milton suggests the process
> by which Satan loses the freedom of his will (climaxing in the humiliation
> by allegory he undergoes in Book 10).  I think this figuration of privation
> in an epic so centrally concerned with free will is deliberate, and it's
> one of many things that point to just how complex the episodes are in how
> they suggest several modes of allegorical and mimetic reading at once
> (including reference to contemporary conditions in addition to the more
> immediately obvious theological abstractions and operations of the soul).
> ****
>
> ** **
>
> It would take too long to say here just how I've read out some of that
> complexity myself, but those who are interested can look at chapter 8 of *Milton
> and Maternal Mortality*, or the shorter, simpler exposition in *Milton
> Studies *32.  ****
>
> ** **
>
> I'd add also that in addition to Steve's essay/chapter there are important
> ones by Philip Gallagher and John Steadman that anyone interested in these
> questions should look at along with important examinations in Michael
> Lieb's *The Dialectics of Creation, *Margaret Thickstun's *Fictions of
> the Feminine, *and Elizabeth Sauer's *Barabarous Dissonance*.* *But the
> list of discussions that feed into the kind of reading that I'm suggesting
> the episodes call for is long.  And there are other contrasting strains to
> take into account.  I won't list them all here, but they are worth reading,
> and comments here ought to at least reflect some awareness of them.****
>
> ** **
>
> Louis****
>
> ** **
>
> ** **
>
> ** **
>
> ======================
> Louis Schwartz
> Professor of English
> University of Richmond
> Richmond, VA  23173
> (804) 289-8315
> lschwart at richmond.edu****
>    ------------------------------
>
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Steve Fallon [
> sfallon at nd.edu]
> *Sent:* Wednesday, October 30, 2013 10:02 AM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Lesser forms****
>
> Thanks, John, for saving me a longer post.  I was about to point to my old
> argument, which holds in a nutshell that "Milton uses allegory in his
> mimetic epic to point to the ontological deficiency of evil.  He reserves
> allegorical status for the paradoxical embodiments of metaphysical evil,
> which [following Augustine] is the negation rather than the expression of
> substance" (*Milton among . . . , *193).  I take your point about the
> good allegorical figures (Graces, Hours, Pan), but I see these as
> ornamentation, not characters interacting with others in the narrative,
> even when, as in the case of Pan, pointing to a character. ****
>
> ** **
>
> To the rest of the thread, I wouldn't say that allegory is necessarily *lesser
> than*, but it is *other than *non-allegorical mimetic narrative.****
>
> ** **
>
> Steve F****
>
> ** **
>
> On Oct 30, 2013, at 9:10 AM, John K Leonard wrote:****
>
>
>
> ****
>
> Precisely Steve Fallon's argument in *Milton Among the Philosophers* (allegory
> is privative and so befits Augustine`s notion of evil as privation). A
> plausible if ingenious argument, though it does raise a difficulty as to
> what we are then to make of the *good *allegorical figures, for there are
> a few (most memorably, universal Pan knit with the Graces and the Hours in
> dance).  No God`s party critic would argue that Pan is a degraded version
> of Creation, especially if Pan is the Son (as he is in Spenser and Milton`s
> Nativity Ode). Interestingly, Bentley spared universal Pan even though he
> wanted to cut the catalogue of gardens that immediately follows.****
>
>  ****
>
> On 10/30/13, *Susan McDonald *<sjmcdonaldsk at gmail.com> wrote: ****
>
> Having followed this discussion, I wonder whether or not the "lower" mode
> of allegory used for Sin, Death, and other entities might not be
> intentional: a lower poetic form for a degraded version of Creation?
>
>
>
> Susan McDonald
> sjmcdonaldsk at gmail.com
> susan.mcdonald at usask.ca
>
> Sent from my iPhone
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