[Milton-L] more, seemingly ever more, on fallacious

Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Thu Apr 17 11:54:49 EDT 2014

Okay, I wasn't going to go there, but I think it's time someone raised this issue: why would Milton have chosen to portray (or modern males to read) degradation of Eve's sexual proclivities only? Where's your evidence for cunnilingus in all this--or was Adam above such things?

I just don't buy it, Shirley.

Best to all,

Carol Barton

From: Gregory Machacek 
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:39 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] more, seemingly ever more, on fallacious

John Leonard 'Surely it was the  expectation of knowledge, rather than any hope that sex would "be better somehow", that makes the fruit "fallax"'

They're not mutually exclusive.

John Savoie's better point than the fellatio bit is that the act of lovemaking we're considering is not postlapsarian but lapsarian, part-and-parcel with the fall; John (Leonard) quickly follows the above quote by acknowledging there is (even outside of Milton) a connection between knowledge and carnal knowledge.  There are a lot of reasons for believing Milton wants us to regard knowing as tied up with "knowing" (if you know what I mean, hint hint, nudge nudge).  First, there is the very fact that we've been looking at; that the fallaciousness of the fruit doesn't emerge until after the eating and the lovemaking.  Also, as part of her temptation of Adam, Eve proposes not just knowledge, but "new joys," that what had "touched her sense" before she ate of the tree is flat compared with how sweet things can be.  And it's female "charm" that wins him over, and there's some talk of "flesh" and "engorging" along the way.  Even back in book 4, the narrator made the link by exhorting Adam and Eve to "know to know no more" right on the heels of his description of their lovemaking.  Heck, "rising" in the quote on which John focuses admits of a sexualized meaning, maybe fall too.

Among the "evils got" may be the evil of now being dissatisfied with lovemaking for having imagined that there would be a better version of it, to which Adam now negatively compares even exactly the same experience as he had previously enjoyed with Eve.

And stop calling me Shirley!  (there's some "flaccid demotic" for ya).

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College
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