[Milton-L] "Four-Letter Words"

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Fri Apr 18 18:13:37 EDT 2014


Dear Salwa, 
 
I think that you are addressing this question to me, since you are replying to a post that I wrote  (below), but you should really be asking John Savoie "why would Milton want to arouse readers'  supposedly intense feelings about 'fellatio' etc.", since I am un-persuaded that there is any such pun or reference in the poem (I thought I had been clear about that, even in the post you quote, but evidently not clear enough). I would not be horrified or disgusted if John Savoie's pun were in the poem, but I just don't think it is, based on the evidence I have heard so far. My point (in the post below) is that there is quite different sexual pun, on "seal", which is a punning reference to vaginal penetration, but with legal overtones (as in Donne's "Elegy XIX" and "The Relic"). You and Carol are obviously very distressed by this topic, so maybe we should just drop it. It has probably been exhausted anyway. As for your last question about same-sex relationships, if the "fallacious/fellatious/fellatio" pun is not present for Adam and Eve's heterosexual relationship, it is not available to "be extended to apply to" any other kind of relationship--which is not to say that  "same-sex relationships" have no place in the poem (but that's another question).
 
John (Leonard)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On 04/18/14, Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net> wrote: 
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>  Dear John,
> Thanks for pointing out Lewis's discussion in "Four-Letter Words" i.e., "obscene words," (*Selected Literary Essays)* on what he calls "the most unsavoury of all perversions" (cunnus). (I tried to avoid typing this word, but I couldn't because my meaning wouldn't be clear.)  His point is that these "obscene" words were satirized in literature up to Milton's time. His essay is prompted by a note from D. H. Lawrence  in defense of *Lady Chatterley's Lover*: "We are to-day, as human beings, evolved and cultured far beyond the taboos which are inherent in our culture. . . .The evocative power of the so-called obscene words must have been very dangerous to the dim-minded, obscure, violent natures of the Middle Ages, and perhaps is still too strong for slow-minded, half-evoked natures to-day."  So . . . why would Milton want to arouse readers' supposedly intense feelings about "fellatio" and "cunnilingus," in a culture filled with taboos about these words/acts? Professor Fleming offered an answer, that these sexual acts are "a significant part of the content and meaning of the fall." That made me think, if these connotations and puns are there in the poem (which I'm not convinced of yet), would they also be extended to apply to same-sex relationships, or just restricted between relationships of the opposite sex?
> 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: John K Leonard(javascript:main.compose() 
> > To: John Milton Discussion List(javascript:main.compose() 
> > Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:11 PM
> > Subject: Re: [Milton-L] An antidote . . .
> > 
> > 
> >  Excellent point by Louis below. It might also be relevant that "seal" was a common early modern pun for sexual penetration (Donne uses it frequently). Much more plausible than the other pun that has so distracted us.
> >  
> > John Leonard
> >  
> > On 04/17/14, "Schwartz, Louis" <lschwart at richmond.edu> wrote 
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> > For me the key and most poetically brilliant touch—and it happens to come right before we’re told that the force of the “fallacious Fruit” with its “exhilerating vapor bland” is “exhal’d” out of the bodies of Adam and Eve—is the way that Milton has the narrator call Adam’s and Eve’s taking their “fill of Love and Loves disport” both the “seal” of “thir mutual guilt” and “The solace of thir sin [italics mine].”  “Seal” and “solace.”  A pact, a union, a broken union, a consolation, isolation, impression; “seis’d” and taken largely, nothing loath.  Sole alas, unsavory of itself, but also soul, associate soul, one heart one flesh one soul.  It’s a striking bit of overdetermination (it starts with the more conventional “seal” of guilt and then branches off unchecked from the addition of “solace”—and the further roving is supported by a series of puns and echoes).   
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