[Milton-L] Apple or Banana?

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Wed Apr 9 20:29:45 EDT 2014


Professor Richmond mentions readers' "getting tangled up in these confusing debates about whether God is a nice guy, or Satan is a better human being than the Son (when all are spirits, or cosmic forces, or metaphysical entities, etc., certainly not men) - or even whether the Apple is really a Banana." Regarding the apple, what professor Richmond calls "entanglement" I call "engagement"--in the sensual and visual aspects of the poem--knowing that the doctrines are equally important as the imagery. All of us, I think, who have expressed interest in the variety of the species of the apple, know that it doesn't matter in the end what the fruit is. Nobody is arguing that it matters whether it is a banana or apple. But what I'm suggesting is not to enforce an artificial limitation on our engagement as readers of the poem,because this limitation will truncate our appreciation of the poem. Literature appeals to all aspects of our faculties, to us as whole beings, and one cannot expurgate the operations of one faculty, if the reading is balanced. Some of us think in images and must be allowed by Milton and other readers to proceed on our way according to our own poetic abilities. Is it a "sin" (perhaps the sin of curiosity) for readers to engage with the apple, like Eve, rather than ignore it so as to please Milton? Perhaps. But then he did write that "virtue" must be tested. 
Thanks for your contributions. I learn from you everyday.
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: Hugh Richmond 
  To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu 
  Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 7:36 PM
  Subject: [Milton-L] Apple or Banana?


  I remain bewildered by the narrow dimensions of the earlier discussions of the Apple and the Snake, or God's obtuseness. The basic issue surely is not literally which kind of fruit is involved, nor whether the ban is arbitrary - but that the vividly sketched situation precipitates an archetype of human limitations. The deeper concern is that the access chosen is to the Tree of Knowledge. As with the Lady in Comus, Innocence learns that it cannot alone free itself from Evil, and - having misjudged - becomes self-aware of its own inadequacy, yet still needs a means of escape from crushing awareness of these limitations. 


  The best way the epic might be redeemed for modern readers may be not to tie it down to historical technicalities, but to demonstrate its continued intelligibility in the light of modern concerns about how to deal with chronic failure (as seemingly with Milton's own political career). With its limited individual awareness, humanity necessarily fails (whatever Calvin may say about that), and therefore becomes aware of the desperate need for transcendent relief, as offered by the Gospels - a least for Milton, and a "few" modern readers. Fish may well be wrong and Lewis perhaps more or less right: it seems only the elect can fully appreciate the epic, not the uninitiated, who risk getting tangled up in these confusing debates about whether God is a nice guy, or Satan is a better human being than the Son (when all are spirits, or cosmic forces, or metaphysical entities, etc., certainly not men) - or even whether the Apple is really a Banana. With best wishes, from Hugh Richmond, Director: http://miltonrevealed.berkeley.edu/



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