[Milton-L] on not imagining in paradise lost

Matthew Jordan matthewjorda at gmail.com
Wed Apr 2 10:46:19 EDT 2014


*May* be an obvious point, but this discussion seems to me a version of one
of the most central debates regarding the poem, which might be put in terms
of something like intention / consequence (to deliberately employ an
ethical/moral vocabulary) - ie. the whole Blake / Fish thing (of the
devil's party / tempting us...)...To an extent I'd go with, say, Lawrence
(trust the tale not the teller: ie. what a writer means to do and what he
does do may be different). Of course, reconstruction of probable dominant
intention makes any ambiguity of effect more interesting than mere
vagueness or imprecision....

Best

Matt.


On 2 April 2014 15:18, Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> wrote:

> Yes, Jim, I feel that that is in accord with what I am asking/proposing.
>  Except that I think I going this degree further:  Not Milton "believed the
> type of fruit was either unknown [or] irrelevant," but that Milton believed
> we should *exercise the mental discipline to know about it that it
> variety is irrelevant*.  Does the poem call on us steadily to say to
> ourselves "though I am curious as to the variety of this fruit, I will
> fight that curiosity and remember that the only thing important about it is
> its being forbidden".  If that kind of determined and sustained
> anti-curiosity is a mode of ambiguity (I'll have to go reread Empson), then
> yes, ambiguity.  But I'm thinking something that *depends* on
> "registering ambiguity to get Milton's point," but goes beyond that.
>
>
>
> Greg Machacek
> Professor of English
> Marist College
>
>
> -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----
> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> From: James Rovira
> Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> Date: 04/02/2014 10:04AM
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] oops, "proud" not "vain"
>
> It could be that Milton deliberately used a less than precise term to
> describe the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because he
> himself believed the type of fruit was either unknown, irrelevant, or both.
> In this case, the ambiguity is the point, and registering ambiguity is to
> get Milton's point.
>
> Saying that the nature or type of the fruit is irrelevant existentializes
> the act of eating rather than attributes some kind of magical property to
> the fruit itself, which I think is more consistent with Milton's
> presentation of and emphasis upon character. Satan's physical appearance
> certainly isn't trustworthy, and where he goes is hell, as he himself is
> hell, regardless of his physical nature.
>
> Jim R
>
>
> On Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 9:48 AM, Gregory Machacek <
> Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> wrote:
>
>> (I'm prepping the Limbo of Vanities for class and got a wire crossed.
>>  Here's the correct version of my reply to Salwa)
>>
>> Salwa, you claim that "we have to imagine it as readers before we can
>> picture the action involved with it" and in the next breath tell us that
>> the poem prevents us from being able to imagine it to the degree we "have
>> to" do: "the 'apple' was a generic term for a group of fruits," and
>> therefore could be a peach.  If the most precise term Milton gives us for
>> imagining the variety of what he elsewhere calls just a "fruit" is itself a
>> category word, how do we then do this imagining that we "have to" do?
>>
>> And do we have to do it?  *Must* "poems as poems" prioritize imagination
>> in this way?  I know that presupposition is plausible and deeply ingrained
>> in us.  But might a given poem challenge us to adopt the "rational
>> viewpoint of God" over the imagination that other poems (and even it
>> itself) do routinely expect us to exercise?  Particularly a poem that
>> explicitly states that fancy serves "reason as chief," a poem that links
>> "imagination" with "aery things," not to mention "*proud*" Satanic
>> ambitions (2.10).
>>
>> The only "actions involved with"  the fruit that I can remember being
>> called on to imagine are plucking and eating (and avoiding), I can picture
>> those actions relative to a generic "fruit" as easily as to a generic
>> "apple."  (The rapidity of 9.781, "she pluckt, she eat" does seem to me to
>> rule out fruits that would need to be peeled, but still rules in many other
>> kinds of fruit.)
>>
>> That is all to say, might the poem be calling on us to check our natural
>> desire to know what variety of fruit this is and instead regard it as (as
>> God calls it) a fruit, and "know to know no more"?  All in service of
>> sustaining the view/resolution that the*only* important thing about it
>> is that it has been forbidden.
>>
>> These may sound like rhetorical questions, but I'm in fact genuinely
>> asking them, because, while I do believe what I say about the fruit, I've
>> never realized what a profound ramification that has for the operation of
>> our imaginations in reading this poem.  So I'd like the list members' help
>> in working these thoughts out, even if it means that we're back to one of
>> those questions that, as John Leonard pointed out, refuse to stay settled
>> and periodically re-emerge on this list.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> Greg Machacek
>> Professor of English
>> Marist College
>>
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>
>
>
> --
> Dr. James Rovira
> Associate Professor of English
> Tiffin University
> http://www.jamesrovira.com
> Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
> Continuum 2010
> http://jamesrovira.com/blake-and-kierkegaard-creation-and-anxiety/
> Text, Identity, Subjectivity
> http://scalar.usc.edu/works/text-identity-subjectivity/index
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