[Milton-L] obedience to your creator

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Thu Apr 10 16:48:54 EDT 2014


If you've taken up too much bandwidth today, I should certainly cut off my
participation for the day after this one....

Thanks very much for responding. Regarding this:

<<The existence of God was not even a matter of universal agreement in
Milton's own time, much less in our own. PL does not participate in
discourse about a "real" character in anything like the same way that the
HBO movie does.>>

Obviously the strength or weakness of this claim is the basis of
theological pre-commitments, isn't it? Saying so depends upon whether we
are Christian or atheist, or Protestant or Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, or
Buddhist or Jewish.

My attempt to focus on "discourse" is an attempt (which may well fail) to
run around the question of God's existence in order to avoid all of the
problems that you describe (and I agree with you that they are problems).
To me, discourse about MLK has the same ontological status as discourse
about unicorns: we can't get to the reality of MLK today any more than we
can get to the reality of unicorns. What we're confronted with are
varieties of discourse about an object that is not and cannot be
immediately present to our senses, some of which may well be from people
present at events and who knew the real man, but none of which can be
uncritically taken at face value apart from everything else that's been
said.

So, to me, understanding Milton might start with understanding where he
fits in with theological discourse about God (which of course influenced
his conception of the poem and its reception). I agree that it shouldn't
end there.

MLK may be something of an unfortunate choice: we do have archival footage
of real speeches and his own letters, so we have "primary" texts of sorts.
But what happens once we take one step away from that?

Jim R


On Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 3:45 PM, Bryson, Michael E
<michael.bryson at csun.edu>wrote:

> And an analogy between a demonstrably historical character and God is a
> bit tricky. MLK existed, apart from anyone's belief. The existence of God
> was not even a matter of universal agreement in Milton's own time, much
> less in our own. PL does not participate in discourse about a "real"
> character in anything like the same way that the HBO movie does.
>
> But a given scholar's personal theoretical/theological/political
> commitments may make that either an obvious point, or a point that is
> impossible to grant. I am reminded of Upton Sinclair at this point:  "It is
> difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary [or
> religion, or politics, or other idea] depends on his not understanding it."
> Perhaps we have a divide here that is impossible to cross, as Sinclair has
> a point for both sides of any debate...
>
> Michael Bryson
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