[Milton-L] Manifest contradiction in Milton?

Hugh M. RICHMOND hmr at berkeley.edu
Tue Feb 11 02:49:26 EST 2014


The "contradiction" between Milton's youthful humanism and his final
rejection of the Platonic Academy is something I tried to explain in The
Christian Revolutionary, but many Miltonists, understandably favoring his
early idealist point of view, found my interpretation distasteful, so that
the explanation has gone largely unregarded. I do not find a
"contradiction" but a sustained and plausible evolution. Most of the book's
argument can be found via Preview in Google Books for "The Christian
Revolutionary". Best wishes, Hugh Richmond


On Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 10:52 PM, Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net> wrote:

>  "manifest contradiction between what is said in Heaven and what is said
> on Earth." (Professor Fleming).
>
>     Although Professor Gillum makes a very strong argument for the
> reconciliation of the Son's speech in Heaven and God-the-Son's speech on
> Earth regarding the punishment of the serpent, I find several other
> "contradictions" in Milton's writings, which push me more towards agreeing
> with Professor Fleming, if I have understood him correctly.
>     If I can pivot to another "contradiction," if I may, I would like to
> ask for your thoughts on the passage where Christ condemns classical
> learning in PR, bk. 4, ll. 285-64. I'm sure many of you have worked out any
> seeming contradictions here and written about them, but for me this
> passage is puzzling since I feel it contradicts other stated views by
> Milton. I can understand Christ's satement: "[h]e who receives / light from
> above, from the fountain of light / No other doctrine needs, though granted
> true" (4. 288-90). It agrees with what Milton wrote elsewhere (I can't find
> the source right now), that "a plain unlearned man that lives well by that
> light which he has, is better, and wiser, and edifies others more towards a
> godly and happy life." But . . . . when Christ refers to bringing "[a]
> spirit and judgment equal or superior" to one's readings (324), Milton
> seems to be prescribng an intellectual regimen (as in "Of Education") which
> may be open to all, or maybe  essentially aristocratic. If so, then one
> questions whether this "superior judgment" can be found in the  "plain
> unlearned man." Milton's lifelong reading and study of the classical
> languages and literature, science, medicine, etc., also contradicts the
> Puritanism that dictates this passage here.  Milton could be stating a
> "double truth," like many others of his age, that what is useful in the
> world of nature is useless in the world of grace--a clear contradiction,
> logically speaking, and difficult to reconcile for most of us.
>    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
> Best,
> 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:* JD Fleming <jfleming at sfu.ca>
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Sent:* Monday, February 10, 2014 4:18 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] "Justice for the Serpent" Revived
>
> Thanks Michael. I would point out there is a difference between thinking
> "it just doesn't make sense" and thinking "what is experienced here is a
> failure of sense." I'm arguing for a Milton who recognizes and deploys the
> latter as a significant hermeneutic configuration in its own right.
> *Unsinn* becomes the sign, or perhaps form, of the fall. Luther, somewhat
> similarly, seems to consider it exegetically respectable to say, in some
> cases: "We must admit an inability to understand this scripture." This he
> prefers to the impulse to make everything intelligible, which leads toward
> allegory.
>
> I like the overdetermined, tripartite uncertainty in the antecedence of
> "his curse"--but would tie that, too, into the unsatisfactory and painful
> nature of the fallen judicial scenario. Best wishes, JDF
>
> ------------------------------
> *From: *"Michael Gillum" <mgillum at unca.edu>
> *To: *"John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Sent: *Monday, 10 February, 2014 11:17:13
> *Subject: *Re: [Milton-L] "Justice for the Serpent" Revived
>
> JD Fleming,
>
> Clearly, Milton is up to something in flaunting the contradiction between
> the Son's "Conviction to the serpent none belongs" and the narrator's "And
> on the Serpent thus his curse let fall." Your reading is a good one and
> perhaps more interesting than mine. However, I take the contradiction as a
> sort of tease, inviting the reader to think about whether what happens to
> the serpent might be something other than a conviction. I imagine Milton
> may have done some thinking along those lines as he struggled to make Gen.
> 3:14-15 morally intelligible to himself. So I have tried to sketch out some
> ways in which Milton's text allows us to see God's pronouncement over the
> serpent as something other than a conviction of the serpent. Certainly my
> argument is not an airtight exoneration of God's justice in the episode. It
> is just an attempt to think along with Milton in his process of "teasing
> rationality out of the Genesis account." I guess the reason I am not
> attracted to your very interesting reading is that I don't think of Milton
> as one who would think "It just doesn't make sense."
>
> Changing the subject a bit, an interesting ambiguity in the line "And on
> the Serpent thus his curse let fall" is that "his curse" could be God's
> curse, or the serpent's curse, or Satan's curse.
>
>   . . . God at last  To Satan, first in sin, his doom applied,  Though in
> mysterious terms, judged as then best;  And on the Serpent thus his curse
> let fall. . . .
>
>
>
>
> On Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 12:04 PM, JD Fleming <jfleming at sfu.ca> wrote:
>
>>  Michael, I can only repeat what I think I probably said before. In
>> heaven: "Conviction to the serpent none belongs." Exactly. No conviction
>> (legal) attaches to him because he has no conviction (cognitive). And then,
>> forthwith, he gets convicted on Earth. So--?
>>
>> The interesting issue here, in my view, has nothing to do (pace Empson et
>> al) with "punishment of innocents." Nor (pace Lewis et al) with exquisite
>> attenuations of the divine judgment. In short, nothing to do with the kind
>> of interminable moralistic tug-o-war that characterizes--still!--so much
>> talk about Milton!
>>
>> Rather, the interesting issue is the thematic effect that Milton derives
>> from the manifest contradiction between what is said in Heaven and what is
>> said on Earth. (On manifest textual problems, and the limits of explaining
>> them away, one could refer to both Luther's Lectures on Genesis and
>> Milton's CD. I have some stuff on this in the Conclusion of *Milton's
>> Secrecy*.) This contradiction functions, very effectively, as an index
>> of the Fall. In the gap between the Son's speech in Heaven, and
>> God-the-Son's speech in the garden, Milton says: "this is what the Fall is.
>> This is what it's like." Ditto re: God-the-Son's speech "explaining" the
>> injustice of convicting the serpent, which he has himself just eschewed in
>> Heaven. The text says: "Now things don't make sense any more. Now you have
>> to listen to bunk like this and nod seriously." Which is a pretty cool
>> effect, in my opinion.
>>
>> But I think we have to accept it, if we are to get it. Best wishes, JDF
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>>
>> ------------------------------
>> *From: *"J. Michael Gillum" <mgillum at ret.unca.edu>
>> *To: *"John Milton Discussion List" <Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu>
>> *Sent: *Thursday, 30 January, 2014 08:08:21
>> *Subject: *[Milton-L] "Justice for the Serpent" Revived
>>
>>
>> Here is a short article by me that maybe will provoke some argument. It
>> is on the open web. I really enjoyed the discussion that Prof. Shoulson
>> started a couple of years ago.
>>
>> http://pachome.org/wp/postscript/?page_id=1014
>>
>> Michael
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Milton-L mailing list
>> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>> Manage your list membership and access list archives at
>> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>>
>> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> James Dougal Fleming
>> Associate Professor
>> Department of English
>> Simon Fraser University
>> 778-782-4713
>>
>> "Upstairs was a room for travelers. 'You know, I shall take it for the
>> rest of my life,' Vasili Ivanovich is reported to have said as soon as he
>> had entered it."
>> -- Vladimir Nabokov, *Cloud, Castle, Lake*
>>
>>
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Milton-L mailing list
>> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>> Manage your list membership and access list archives at
>> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>>
>> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
> Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>
> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>
>
>
> --
> James Dougal Fleming
> Associate Professor
> Department of English
> Simon Fraser University
> 778-782-4713
>
> "Upstairs was a room for travelers. 'You know, I shall take it for the
> rest of my life,' Vasili Ivanovich is reported to have said as soon as he
> had entered it."
> -- Vladimir Nabokov, *Cloud, Castle, Lake*
>
>
>  ------------------------------
>
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
> Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>
> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
> Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>
> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.richmond.edu/pipermail/milton-l/attachments/20140210/125b7123/attachment.html>


More information about the Milton-L mailing list