[Milton-L] early "sex"

Arlene Stiebel amstiebel at aol.com
Tue Nov 18 13:35:54 EST 2014


I would suggest that "sexual activity" requires neither "gender" nor "generation."  I think we have all acknowledged by now that procreation is not a requirement for "sex," and that the concept of "gender"  consists of social categories (masculine and feminine) depicting roles assigned to sex (male and female).  Gender roles are fluid;  biologically determined sex (with some anomalies) customarily is absolute.  Popular parlance confuses, conflates and merges gender and sex, but they are two distinct categories, gender being the traits commonly associated with a particular sex.  Same sex coupling, where the concept of gender (if relevant) takes on a very different meaning, relates well to Milton's detailed account of the activity of the angels in comparison to human lovemaking.  In re "sexual activity," see also, "onanism."

-- Arlene

On Nov 18, 2014, at 10:32 AM, "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu> wrote:

> Well, yes, but I think our meaning is there too.  No?
> 
> RS
> 
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Gregory Machacek [Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu]
> Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 12:26 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] early "sex"
> 
> 
> By which Donne there means gender difference.
> 
> 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: "Richard A. Strier" 
> Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> Date: 11/18/2014 01:24PM
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] early "sex"
> 
> Well, the OED ain't too reliable (wow-- big news!).
> 
> "Sex" in our terms was used by Donne ("We see, by this, it was not sex").
> 
> RS 
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Sara van den Berg [vandens at slu.edu]
> Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 12:05 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] what to call angelic lovemaking
> 
> Milton calls it "love"  (cf. "love's proper hue" when Raphael blushes).
> 
> Sara van den Berg
> 
> On Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM, Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> 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." [NOTE:  AS DIANE MCCOLLEY AND 
> 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
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> On 11/17/14, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com <jamesrovira at gmail.com> <jamesrovira at gmail.com <jamesrovira at gmail.com>>> wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>> Right -- Adam and Eve were built capable of both reproduction and physical? immortality (via the Tree of Life), so the assumption should be that had they chosen eternal life they would both physically reproduce and physically live forever. Space would be a problem, but parking would be a bigger problem. 
>>>>> 
>>>>> Is the immortality communicated by the Tree of Life in PL physical? Or would they be translated to heaven as Enoch and Elijah were?
>>>>> 
>>>>> I imagine also that all of their progeny would have to choose not to eat the fruit, so some would be subject to death, creating parallel human species cohabitating on the same planet: fallen and unfallen.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Sounds like the premise of a science fiction novel.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Jim R
>>>>> 
>>>>> On Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 4:10 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu> <rastrier at uchicago.edu<rastrier at uchicago.edu>> <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu> <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I like the point about extra space in heaven.  Other planets available too.  But why assume that future humans would not reproduce, since this is part of their "job," and is one of the things that distinguishes them/us from angels?
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 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>> <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>>> [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>> <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 Michael Gillum [mgillum at unca.edu <mgillum at unca.edu> <mgillum at unca.edu<mgillum at unca.edu>> <mgillum at unca.edu <mgillum at unca.edu> <mgillum at unca.edu <mgillum at unca.edu>>>]
>>>>> Sent: Monday, November 17, 2014 3:03 PM
>>>>> 
>>>>> To: John Milton Discussion List
>>>>> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Adam ate of . . . the wrong Tree!
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> About the Malthusian problem-- 
>>>>> 
>>>>> "Your bodies may at last turn all to Spirit,
>>>>> Improv'd by tract of time, and wingd ascend
>>>>> Ethereal, as wee, or may at choice
>>>>> Here or in Heav'nly Paradises dwell;" [ 5.500 ]
>>>>> --So, the evolved future humans will have access to Heaven, which is huge compared to Earth and seems to have lots of unoccupied territory. Also, I suppose the spiritualized future humans will longer reproduce, just as angels do not reproduce.
>>>>> Michael
>>>>> 
>>>>> On Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 3:26 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu> <rastrier at uchicago.edu<rastrier at uchicago.edu>> <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu> <rastrier at uchicago.edu<rastrier at uchicago.edu>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Would that have raised a Malthusian problem?  A and E and all the progeny and their progeny's progeny, etc forever?  
>>>>> 
>>>>> Also-- how are the angels continually raised in status?  Seems like they stay where they are.
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 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>> <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>>> [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>> <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> <srevard at siue.edu<srevard at siue.edu>> <srevard at siue.edu <srevard at siue.edu> <srevard at siue.edu <srevard at siue.edu>>>]
>>>>> Sent: Monday, November 17, 2014 2:11 PM
>>>>> To: John Milton Discussion List
>>>>> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Adam ate of . . . the wrong Tree!
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> And the clear answer, Richard, is that "immortality" means deathlessness:  Adam and Eve, had they not fallen, would never have died, but like angels been continually raised in status and brought to greater knowledge and fuller being.  (Raphael's speculative account of humans ascending to angelic status, still presumably able to eat and digest fruit completely without waste or corruption, is relevant but not at issue in Book 11.)  I don't see how Milton could have made it any clearer, at least for readers who like Jameela actually DO read what Milton wrote and see that he had thought matters through and stated them as plainly as the complicated and tangled Scriptural authorities would allow.  In the opening lines of the poem, "brought Death into the world" states matters clearly and simply; and the lines Jameela quotes give some detail in which Milton is thinking straightforwardly about fallen human physiology of eating, drinking, digesting, crapping, and so on. "Corruption" is given a very closeup and literal meaning here.  (For an obsessed variant of this, see Swift's Gulliver:  Swift is outraged and disgusted whereas Milton is matter-of-fact.) 
>>>>> 
>>>>>  
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> On 11/17/14, "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu> <rastrier at uchicago.edu<rastrier at uchicago.edu>> <rastrier at uchicago.edu <rastrier at uchicago.edu> <rastrier at uchicago.edu<rastrier at uchicago.edu>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> But the question is what "immortality" means here.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> > On Nov 17, 2014, at 11:23 AM, "Jameela Lares" <jameela.lares at usm.edu <jameela.lares at usm.edu> <jameela.lares at usm.edu <jameela.lares at usm.edu>> <jameela.lares at usm.edu <jameela.lares at usm.edu> <jameela.lares at usm.edu <jameela.lares at usm.edu>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> > 
>>>>>> > PL does say something about pre- and postlapsarian diet.
>>>>>> > 
>>>>>> > But longer in that Paradise to dwell,
>>>>>> > The Law I gave to Nature him forbids:
>>>>>> > Those pure immortal Elements that know
>>>>>> > No gross, no unharmoneous mixture foule,
>>>>>> > Eject him tainted now, and purge him off
>>>>>> > As a distemper, gross to aire as gross,
>>>>>> > And mortal food, as may dispose him best
>>>>>> > For dissolution wrought by Sin, that first    
>>>>>> > Distemperd all things, and of incorrupt
>>>>>> > Corrupted.  I at first with two fair gifts 
>>>>>> > Created him endowd, with Happiness
>>>>>> > And Immortalitie: that fondly lost,
>>>>>> > This other serv’d but to eternize woe. . . .
>>>>>> > (PL 11:48-60)
>>>>>> > 
>>>>>> > Jameela Lares
>>>>>> > Professor of English
>>>>>> > The University of Southern Mississippi
>>>>>> > 118 College Drive, #5037
>>>>>> > Hattiesburg, MS  39406-0001
>>>>>> > 601 266-4319 ofc
>>>>>> > 601 266-5757 fax
>>>>>> > 
>>>>>> > _______________________________________________
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>>>>>> > Manage your list membership and access list archives at http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
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>>>>> 
>>>>> -- 
>>>>> Dr. James Rovira
>>>>> Associate Professor of English
>>>>> Tiffin University
>>>>> http://www.jamesrovira.com
>>>>> Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
>>>>> Continuum 2010
>>>>> http://jamesrovira.com/blake-and-kierkegaard-creation-and-anxiety/
>>>>> Text, Identity, Subjectivity
>>>>> http://scalar.usc.edu/works/text-identity-subjectivity/index
>>>> 
>>>> _______________________________________________
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>> 
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>> 
>> -- 
>> Dr. James Rovira
>> Associate Professor of English
>> Tiffin University
>> http://www.jamesrovira.com
>> Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
>> Continuum 2010
>> http://jamesrovira.com/blake-and-kierkegaard-creation-and-anxiety/
>> Text, Identity, Subjectivity
>> http://scalar.usc.edu/works/text-identity-subjectivity/index
> 
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