[Milton-L] gastroMilton and teen angels

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Tue Apr 8 14:49:30 EDT 2014

John, I mean that it is, in terms of Milton's artistic achievement, *triumphantly* absurd and self-defeating! And it is the latter (1) because S stands for Satan--thus the "disguise" reveals who's in it, and (2) more importantly, the resemblance between the upright snake and an erect phallus, which M is not shy about drawing out, explicitly and even coarsely indicates the moral violation S intends to perpetrate on Eve, as drawn out further by the Restoration rake simile at 9.445-44! Only for the rapist then to be raped of his fierceness at 455-466. Brilliant. jdf 

----- Original Message -----

From: "John K Leonard" <jleonard at uwo.ca> 
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
Sent: Tuesday, 8 April, 2014 11:31:13 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] gastroMilton and teen angels 

On 04/08/14, JD Fleming <jfleming at sfu.ca> wrote: 


On Satan's disguises, these are typically, and often absurdly, self-defeating. (Think of the giant, phallic S of 9.) Are there other instances of adolescent angels in the poem? JD Fleming 

James, why do you think the snake disguise absurd or self-defeating? The prelapsarian snake really was 'giant' and 'phallic' (it went upright on its circular base of coils). Satan does not add these features as gratuitous embellishments to the garden's serpent. He chooses the serpent and enters its body (not quite the same as a 'disguise') in order to appropriate its natural features to his own perverse ends. It is because the serpent is so 'subtle' that its body language lends itself so well to Satan's lies. The orator simile is a tour de force where almost every word has three levels of relevance: 1) the orator's physical gestures (one can actually see Demosthenes or Cicero or Julius Caesar standing and gesturing in Athens or free Rome, using their hands; sometimes stooping, sometimes standing at full height); 2) the 'parts' of oratory (Fowler's note is excellent on the technical terms); 3) the snake's bodily movements, as it, even more than Cicero, literally grows before our eyes as it uses the 'high' style ('to highth upgrown'). Far from finding this absurd, I think this one of the poem's great triumphs. Milton makes the talking snake entirely believable within the fiction of the poem. 

John Leonard 
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J ames Dougal Fleming 
Associate Professor 
Department of English 
Simon Fraser University 

Burnaby -- British Columbia -- Canada. 

And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev.22:3. 

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