[Milton-L] obedience to your creator

Horace Jeffery Hodges horacejeffery at gmail.com
Fri Apr 11 14:42:27 EDT 2014

*David Ainsworth*: "Holding up the mirror to Creation must inevitably
result in distortion . . ."

*Jeffery Hodges*: Yes, it reverses left and right and thus conflates good
and evil! Hence have we scholars "found no end, in wandring mazes lost. /
Of good and evil much . . . argu'd then . . ."

Jeffery Hodges

Ewha Womans University
Seoul, South Korea

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

 (*The Bottomless Bottle of Beer*)

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

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

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

On Sat, Apr 12, 2014 at 3:16 AM, David Ainsworth <dainsworth at as.ua.edu>wrote:

> I'm late to this discussion and wallowing in end-of-semester work, so I'm
> contributing having read only a portion of the thread. Apologies.
> I see Michael's point here about shutting down discourse, but I don't see
> that either a theological or a historicist perspective necessarily shuts
> down discourse, only that it is at present the dominant means to do so.
> Approaching the poem theologically can open up or (more interestingly, to
> me) replicate existing discourse within the Judeo-Christian tradition.
> My undergrad Milton class this year is focused on Milton's Satan. Most of
> my students could be reasonably described as strongly Protestant
> Christians. As they started Paradise Lost, they began convinced that Satan
> was evil and a deceiver, and I worried that no debate would arise at all.
> As reading and discussion continued, the class attitude shifted against
> God and toward Satan. One of my more outspoken students declared Satan the
> hero and God a jerk (he may have used stronger language). Several students
> maintained God's virtue--that these students typically paid more attention
> to the specific language of the poem does not prove their position
> accurate, only that one must attend closely to language in order to
> maintain it--while a few proposed that God was using Satan, possibly with
> his connivance, to test Creation.
> As they finished the poem, their positions altered yet again. My outspoken
> student concluded that the events of the poem were a scheme by God "the
> jerk" to put the Son in his place, and that this end was "good" even if the
> means were suspect; he thus ended up defending God in a sense and
> condemning Satan. One student differentiated between "good" (which she took
> both God and Milton's God to be by definition) and "just," concluding that
> Satan is right that God is unjust but that God must be good regardless. One
> student noted that while Satan talks about good and evil all the time, the
> Father doesn't directly call Satan evil, instead using terms like
> "adversary" or "rebel" or "Fiend." Given another week of thought, I suspect
> he'd have arrived at the conclusion that evil in the poem is an illusion
> and that only good is "real."
> My students are quite aware that Paradise Lost isn't direct from the mouth
> of the God most of them believe in. But they see a difference in how they
> parse the characters because to them, the poem is "based on a true story"
> (although for some, that story is itself allegorical). If I have understood
> correctly what my Creative Writing colleagues have told me about the field
> of creative non-fiction, Paradise Lost might comfortably sit on the
> boundary between that and historical fiction (depending in large part upon
> how far one buys in to the "Milton as prophet" narrative which he offers in
> several of his works). Holding up the mirror to Creation must inevitably
> result in distortion, but fiction and non-fiction can't be easily or
> readily disentangled, even if they can be differentiated. If we posit this
> kind of artistic production as an attempt to access an ontological truth,
> then I think Jim can be both right and wrong: right in that the poem may
> actually mimetically associate itself with its subject, wrong about the
> level of reality of the characters in the poem. Even autobiography walks
> the line between truth and invention; its success as autobiography depends
> more upon the results of the mixture of the two, less on how it upholds the
> truth alone.
> Am I rambling toward a point? Only that Paradise Lost's ability to
> generate out of itself that which the Judeo-Christian tradition generates
> suggests that the epic successfully engages with its subject(s). Whether or
> not "God" exists as the Judeo-Christian tradition defines him (in the many,
> sometimes differing ways it does) matters less, I think, than whether
> Paradise Lost can be read as a part of that tradition, or as an artifact
> about or regarding the tradition. The tradition is real, even if all its
> contents are fictions.
> If I understand Michael's argument, I disagree with him in that I think
> Milton's God must be taken with (but not as) the Judeo-Christian God. But
> Carrol's distinction matters deeply in my arriving at that disagreement.
> "Based on a true story" offers a wide range between "historical
> reconstruction" and "utterly unsupported wish-fulfillment."
> David
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