[Milton-L] No antidote

Harold Skulsky hskulsky at smith.edu
Sun Apr 20 16:01:32 EDT 2014


I may be rushing in here where angels fear to tread, since (swamped as I am
with undergraduate papers, etc.) I have not had the leisure to follow the
"seal" discussion--and happened on a fragment of the discussion merely by
chance. But I get the impression that people have been applying the term
"pun" to stylistic phenomena that are not obviously puns in the usual
17th-c.sense (viz. *paronomasia*  or *denominatio*). Not all witty plays on
words are puns. Some are merely innuendos.


On Sun, Apr 20, 2014 at 2:26 PM, Schwartz, Louis <lschwart at richmond.edu>wrote:

>  “ 'The seal / The solace' occurs at the legally and sexually sealing
> moment of first transmission. Adam seeks solace with Eve in the very moment
> that he imprints and oppresses all his future descendants.”
>
>
>
> Thank you, John, for this beautifully phrased formulation.  I continue to
> be puzzled by people’s resistance to hearing the sexual valence of “seal”
> in this context, and the way the phrasing “seals” the sexual and the legal
> senses, not to mention the way it seals the solace and the sin.  There’s
> nothing “low” about the imagery or the conceptual content here.  What I
> find compelling and moving and intellectually interesting is the mixed
> affective quality of the language.  It’s one of those moments that makes me
> think of Thenot’s characterization of Colin’s elegy at the end of Spenser’s
> “November:”
>
>
>
> Ay franke shepheard, how bene thy verses meint
>
> With doolful pleasaunce, so I ne wotte,
>
> Whether rejoice or weepe for great constrainte
>
>  Louis
>
>
>
> ===========================
>
> Louis Schwartz
>
> Professor of English
>
> English Department
>
> University of Richmond
>
> 28 Westhampton Way
>
> Richmond, VA  23173
>
> (804) 289-8315
>
> lschwart at richmond.edu
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] *On Behalf Of *John K Leonard
>
> *Sent:* Sunday, April 20, 2014 1:44 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* [Milton-L] No antidote
>
>
>
>  Dismissing my case for a 'seal' pun, Carol Barton writes 'It must be a
> guy thing, John'. Oydin Uzakova then chimes in:
>
>
>
> I consider the word "seal" here as a *legal *term of their being mutually
> bound in the original sin
>
>  Of course 'seal' is a legal term. I stated explicitly that the legal
> sense is primary. The question is whether there is a sexual sense in
> addition to the legal one (in a context that is clearly sexual). Several
> posters seem to assume that my point in arguing for a pun is to bring the
> tone down to a gutter level ('a guy thing, John'). The assumption behind
> such comments is that the legal and sexual spheres are entirely distinct
> and can never meet in wordplay that accords with epic decorum. I would
> certainly agree that the tone of Milton's lines is very different from
> Donne's elegies (at least the narrator's tone is different). But this
> moment in the poem is still a meeting of the legal and the sexual. Saint
> Augustine held that original sin passed from parent to child through the
> father's semen (a sexually transmitted disease). 'The seal / The solace'
> occurs at the legally and sexually sealing moment of first transmission.
> Adam seeks solace with Eve in the very moment that he imprints and
> oppresses all his future descendants. As he says in the next book:
>
>
>
>
>
>  All that I . . . shall beget
>
> Is propagated curse. O voice once heard
>
> Delightfully, Increase and multiply,
>
> Now death to hear! For what can I increase
>
> Or multiply, but curses on my head?
>
> Who of all ages to succeed, but feeling
>
> The evil on him brought by me, will curse
>
> My head, Ill fare our ancestor impure.
>
>
>
> Impure semen is 'a guy thing', but it infects the daughters too.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> John Leonard
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
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