[Milton-L] early "sex"

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Tue Nov 18 18:41:46 EST 2014

But then, "Satan" and "Beelzebub" are both traditional names for the Evil One. Doubtless "sleepst thou companion dear" etc can easily be brought under the canopy of epic, never mind heavenly, homoeroticism. But at the same time the joke, as with Sin, involves exclusive attraction to and excitement by reflexive avatars. Satanic eroticism is autoeroticism. JD Fleming 

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

From: "Stella Revard" <srevard at siue.edu> 
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
Sent: Tuesday, 18 November, 2014 14:26:16 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] early "sex" 

Yes--thanks, Jeffery, I was about to cite PL 6.672 ff. (again). Milton does not, at that point, seem to imply that Satan and Beelzebub are "lovers," but the words he gives Satan clearly show very close companionship: "Thou to me thy thoughts/ Wast wont, I mine to thee was wont to impart;/ Both waking we were one ...." This surely allows us, if we now recall Raphael's description of angelic lovemaking, to use our little grey cells, twirl our mustaches, and inform the Milton List present in our virtual classroom that appearances do suggest Satan and Beelzebub have most likely been up to something--especially when we consider the rapid moral degeneration of Satan that will presently result in the rape of his daughter Sin, described by Milton (in Book 2) in terms fit for a Special Victims Unit episode. 

Of course this is pretty far out stuff. Thank goodness I am no longer teaching and won't be playing Poirot, or Ken Starr--but I wonder whether one of the upcoming Marathon Readings might allow some folks on this list to cluck-cluck a bit during such a reading....Probably better however for the innocent undergraduates, or the perhaps not so innocent grad students and colleagues, to avert their eyes and minds lest they turn a worldly crimson hue as the great lines roll on. 

On 11/18/14, Horace Jeffery Hodges <horacejeffery at gmail.com> wrote: 

Jim Rovira wrote "I get the sense the angels aren't married . . . " 

But might they be paired up, such as Beelzebub with Satan (Lucifer) - an intimacy lurking as an assumption behind my Clintonesque joke about these two angels sleeping together, the former sleeping but the latter not . . . 

Jeffery Hodges 

Ewha Womans University 
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On Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 12:31 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com <jamesrovira at gmail.com>> wrote: 


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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J ames Dougal Fleming 
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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. 

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