[Milton-L] early "sex"

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Tue Nov 18 15:31:57 EST 2014


Many thanks for the responses to my question.

I was wondering if *Milton *would call it "sex" if it's not generative and
doesn't require gender? Dr. Revard's answer is perhaps -the- answer, as the
quoted text draws a direct parallel between Adam and Eve's sexual intimacy
and angelic intimacy. I also think the parallel between angelic "sex" and
human sex is supported by Raphael's blushes. Why be so embarrassed about it
if it's not something like sexual intimacy?

But I want to complicate this answer a bit just to see what happens, if
that's ok.

"Love" was certainly used in our sense of "sex" in this period, but "love"
was also opposed to "pleasure" in "The Imperfect Enjoyment," "pleasure"
here standing in for successful coitus. "Sex" (in our sense), I believe,
was meant to serve both unitive and generative purposes going quite far
back. Intimacy (associated with unitive purposes, I assume) is certainly
described by Raphael, but I get the sense the angels aren't married (and
surely Milton was aware of the NT passage to that effect) -- so are the
rules different for angels? If it is angelic "sex," why are angels allowed
to fornicate and humans are not? Lack of generation? But I don't get a
sense that angels are permanently bound together through their version of
intercourse either, so we appear to lose both generative and unitive
purposes, so what is left of sex?

What I can't accommodate, more than anything, is the blushing Raphael. Adam
and Eve were naked and unashamed: they retired to the bower for
intercourse, but Adam (in a somewhat childlike way) feels no shame or
embarrassment in asking the question, which he should feel if he himself
were embarrassed about his own sexuality. Raphael is presumably just as
innocent, though perhaps not as naive, but I'm unsure how naivete and
innocence can be completely separated here too: shouldn't Raphael have been
as unembarrassed to talk about it as Adam was to ask? The blush invokes
modesty, self awareness, the desire to cover up: these gods (so to speak)
are perfect and ideal in form, so do not need clothing.

So I might suggest a possible alternative reading: human sexual intercourse
encourages physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual intimacy in PL.
Angels, lacking physical bodies (ah, but again, as we saw in the war in
heaven, they can become more or less solid at will -- so why not take on
fully substantial bodies and then have "real" sex?), participate in their
own versions of this intimacy, but the intimacy does not form a bond, as
they lack physical bodies, so that their union is primarily
"intelligential" but also involving emotion to the extent that angels feel
it, which they do. Is this a possible argument against the use of the word
"sex," then, to describe angelic intimacy? That their bond isn't sexual in
any sense really extensible to human beings who, could they share this kind
of bond, would experience perhaps greater intimacy than ever but also call
it non-sexual? "Sex" is made possible between humans because of barriers
(of flesh) that do not exist among angels.

I hope I don't sound more insistent on this point than I am. I am trying
out ideas among better readers of PL than I.

Jim R
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