[Milton-L] what to call angelic lovemaking

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Tue Nov 18 13:17:28 EST 2014

"private ejaculations" is way better. jdf 

----- Original Message -----

From: "Dennis Danielson" <danielso at mail.ubc.ca> 
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
Sent: Tuesday, 18 November, 2014 10:14:39 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] what to call angelic lovemaking 

I prefer the term "intercourse" for reasons akin to those Greg cites for 
"conversation." It has a similar, rather delicious malleability. When 
I'm trying to illustrate to students how meanings in English have 
changed, I ask them to imagine how the sentence "John and Mary were in 
the park engaged in earnest intercourse" might have been understood in 
the eighteenth century. 


On 14-11-18 10:00 AM, Gregory Machacek wrote: 
> The question (below) is what *we* should call angelic cohabitation, if 
> not /sex/. 
> I suppose we can call it whatever we want, but Milton likely wouldn't 
> have called it /sex/. 
> The OED's earliest witness for /sex/ meaning 
> Physical contact between individuals involving sexual stimulation; 
> sexual activity or behaviour, /spec./sexual intercourse, copulation. 
> is from 1900. Assembling the bits that PL gives us, Milton would maybe 
> call it "love expressing" (Adam asks "do you love" and "do you express 
> it" and Raphael says "yes"). He might have called it "conversation"; he 
> likes that word (which in English had the meaning "sexual intercourse or 
> intimacy" earlier than it had the meaning "exchange of thoughts and 
> words) and he likes the slippage between those two senses of that word. 
> I like the slippage between those two senses of the word, so I'm going 
> to call it /conversation/. 
> Greg Machacek 
> Professor of English 
> Marist College 
> -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: ----- 
> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
> From: "Stella Revard" 
> Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu 
> Date: 11/18/2014 03:28AM 
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Adam ate of . . . the wrong Tree! 
> Interesting question: what should we call angelic cohabitation, if not 
> sex? Milton evidently wanted to broaden his readers's understanding of 
> love and lovemaking: in PL 8.595 ff. Adam tells Raphael how fervently 
> he adores Eve, but insists that it is not only her beauty, not only the 
> delights of procreation and the "genial bed," but even more "those 
> graceful acts,/ Those thousand decencies that daily flow/ From all her 
> words and actions, mixt with Love/ And sweet compliance, which declare 
> unfeign'd/ Union of mind, or in us both one Soule;/ Harmonie to behold 
> in wedded pair/ More grateful than harmonious sound to the eare." 
> STELLA REVARD and many others have pointed out, Adam has previously 
> emphasized Eve's "greatness of mind and nobleness" (l. 557).] So when 
> Adam then asks Raphael whether and how angels love, he really puts him 
> on the spot, and Raphael answers (as we all know well) very explicitly. 
> Adam asks: "Love not the heav'nly Spirits, and how thir Love/ Express 
> they, by looks onely, or do they mix/ Irradiance, virtual or immediate 
> touch?" It is a question so direct and explicit that if the bluenosed 
> censors of Lady Chatterley and Ulysses had actually read Paradise Lost 
> they'd probably have tried to ban it too--at least this bit, and at 
> least in schools. 
> Now, to return to James Rovira's question, whether we can call angelic 
> lovemaking "sex" if it's not generative and doesn't require gender, my 
> view is we absobloodylutely can and should. Rafael says (622ff): 
> "Whatever pure thou in the body enjoy'st/ (And pure thou wert created), 
> we enjoy/ In eminence, and obstacle find none/ Of membrane, joynt, or 
> limb, exclusive barrs...." As Richard well says, it is "spectacularly 
> non-genital,...recreative, intimate, and amazingly erotic, but not 
> procreative." The lines are perhaps meant to invoke Plato and Socrates, 
> perhaps even, very privately, Milton and Diodati. 
> Actually, I think we cannot be sure angelic lovemaking is NOT 
> procreative: perhaps those "stripling angels" are begotten not 
> created? Milton of course sensibly does not delve further into this 
> matter: Raphael points out that the sun is now parting, which is his 
> signal to depart, and Adam goes back to his Bower and Eve. 
> On 11/17/14, *James Rovira * <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote: 
>> Can we really call it "sex" if it's not generative and doesn't require 
>> gender? 
>> Jim R 
>> On Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 9:15 PM, Richard A. Strier 
>> <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu>> wrote: 
>> A and E in Eden look forward to having children. And yes, angelic 
>> sex, which is spectacularly non-genital, does seem to be 
>> recreative, intimate, and amazingly erotic, but not procreative. 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
>> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu 
>> <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> 
>> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu 
>> <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>] on behalf of Stella Revard 
>> [srevard at siue.edu <srevard at siue.edu>] 
>> *Sent:* Monday, November 17, 2014 6:32 PM 
>> *To:* John Milton Discussion List 
>> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Adam ate of . . . the wrong Tree! 
>> Thanks Arlene! and Richard, I think you are right--though I can't 
>> recall any PL texts confirming it--that if they had remained 
>> obedient, Adam and Eve, and all the other creatures, would have 
>> reproduced in Eden. When we first "see" them in Book 3, they are 
>> "reaping immortal fruits of joy and love," and when we next see 
>> them, in Books 4 and 5, they are not turning from each other in 
>> their Bower of Bliss, so we surely would expect this to be a 
>> fruitful union--though I believe their first-born, Cain, was 
>> likely conceived during the post-Knowledge orgy, and their 
>> second-born, Seth, only in their snake-stomping days after they 
>> had relocated from Eden. I don't recall any PL text about whether 
>> or when humans if they had remained unfallen might have spread 
>> beyond Eden; Milton answered a great many questions but did not, I 
>> think, address that one. 
>> As for angelic sex as described by Raphael, am I wrong to infer 
>> that it was not for purposes of reproduction, but for 
>> pleasure--recreation, not procreation? Milton tells us that Satan 
>> disguised himself as a "stripling" angel, so it does seem that 
>> there were younger angels and older ones, whatever we are to make 
>> of that. And they did sleep, as witness "Sleep'st thou?" though 
>> I'm not sure whether Satan and his "mate" were sleeping "together" 
>> in that sense.... 
>> Carter 
>> On 11/17/14, *Arlene Stiebel *<amstiebel at aol.com 
>> <amstiebel at aol.com>> wrote: 
>>> Yes. And may we also keep in mind that the forbidden tree was 
>>> the one prohibiting Knowledge of Good and Evil -- not /all/ 
>>> knowledge, but specifically that of a certain kind to which Adam 
>>> and Eve were not supposed to have access. One may infer that any 
>>> other knowledge except for that "of good and evil" was available 
>>> to our mutual parents, as they were continually being schooled in 
>>> things appropriate to their status. 
>>> On Nov 17, 2014, at 3:29 PM, "Stella Revard" <srevard at siue.edu 
>>> <srevard at siue.edu> <srevard at siue.edu <srevard at siue.edu>>> wrote: 
>>>> I think we should all read again, very carefully, Book Three. 
>>>> There, Milton's God and his Son make it perfectly clear that God 
>>>> can do ANYthing (he could for instance create all the parking 
>>>> spaces humans may need--Noo Yawkers take note!), that he has 
>>>> begotten his Son and promoted him to head of all the angels, 
>>>> that the angels understand this is a new way for them to be 
>>>> raised in knowledge and heavenly joy and brought closer to God, 
>>>> that the angels (like Adam and Eve when they are created) are 
>>>> free to accept or reject this gift, that some angels will reject 
>>>> it, and that God will will presently create the Universe for a 
>>>> race of new beings (human and animal plus ???). In short, the 
>>>> angels are continually learning more about themselves, about 
>>>> Heaven, about God, about the Son; and their response, like that 
>>>> of Adam and Eve as they voice their morning prayers and psalms, 
>>>> is to sing, to put new knowledge into song, to celebrate their 
>>>> new knowledge of Everything past and present and to come, to 
>>>> understand more fully the power and mercy and justice of the 
>>>> Creator. It is not a static place, Milton's Heaven, not one 
>>>> inhabited by passive or changeless beings, but a place where (as 
>>>> we first see and hear God, the Son, and the angels speaking) we 
>>>> see fierce and continual action, mysteries suddenly becoming 
>>>> clear, unimaginable happenings: past, present, and future are 
>>>> put into words and we view all of history from the begetting of 
>>>> the Son through the rebellion of some angels, the creation of 
>>>> the Universe and the fall of its new human beings, then the 
>>>> judgment of them by the Son and the promise that he will redeem 
>>>> them (till one greater man restore them, and regain the blissful 
>>>> seat, as we had been told in the poem's opening sentence). 
>>>> We need to keep in mind also that this portrayal of angels in 
>>>> PL 3 is not something just worked out by Milton while writing 
>>>> the poem; he had portrayed angels in /Lycidas/ as beings whose 
>>>> songs gave heavenly solace and higher status to a human being: 
>>>> "There entertain him all the Saints above,/ In solemn troops, 
>>>> and sweet Societies,/ That sing, and singing in their glory 
>>>> move,/ And wipe the tears forever from his eyes." 
>>>> And so it goes. Best to all the List Folk. 
>>>> Carter 
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/ 

J ames Dougal Fleming 
Associate Professor 
Department of English 
Simon Fraser University 

Burnaby -- British Columbia -- Canada. 

He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went. Matt.21:29. 

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.richmond.edu/pipermail/milton-l/attachments/20141118/005c9822/attachment.html>

More information about the Milton-L mailing list