[Milton-L] on not imagining in paradise lost

Katarzyna Lecky klecky at astate.edu
Wed Apr 2 15:24:37 EDT 2014


I'm with Professor Khoddam on this issue. I think Raphael would be, too: as he says to Adam amidst their discussions of the workings of creation,

To ask or search I blame thee not, for Heav'n
Is as the Book of God before thee set,
Wherein to read his wondrous Works, and learne
His Seasons, Hours, or Dayes, or Months, or Yeares

Although I do not by any means think of Raphael as the authoritative voice in this text, he nevertheless has a point: Renaissance readers were trained to see the Book of Nature as analogous to the Book of God, and to analyze the natural world accordingly. We must question what kind of fruit it is if we are to follow in the hermeneutic footsteps of those for whom the epic was written. If we refuse, we trap ourselves in the tyranny of the present.




Kat Lecky
Assistant Professor
Department of English and Philosophy
Arkansas State University
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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Horace Jeffery Hodges [horacejeffery at gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2014 1:39 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] on not imagining in paradise lost

In that case, better overcome the temptation to click on my links . . .

Jeffery Hodges

Ewha Womans University
Seoul, South Korea

Novella: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E18KW0K (The Bottomless Bottle of Beer)


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bottomless-Bottle-of-Beer/204064649770035 (The Bottomless Bottle of Beer)

Blog: http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ (Gypsy Scholar)


Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in the Gospel of John and Gnostic Texts"


Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University


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On Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 11:18 PM, Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu<mailto: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


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To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>>
From: James Rovira
Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto: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<mailto: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 theonly 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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