[Milton-L] ways of god to men

Hugh M. RICHMOND hmr at berkeley.edu
Fri Sep 1 13:07:16 EDT 2017


Agreed!

On Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 4:15 PM, JCarl Bellinger <dionhalic at gmail.com>
wrote:

> I did not write what in this email you have ascribed to me.
> Carl Bellinger
> ps
> Were Paradise Lost such a work as you claim M. designed it to be, who
> would  continue reading more than a book or
> two before setting it aside?
> "[Milton's] overarching goal in writing the entire poem was to
> deliberately create ambiguity at every possible level of interpretation."
>
> On Sun, Aug 27, 2017 at 4:54 PM Arnie Perlstein <arnieperlstein at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>> Brendan Prawdzik wrote: "Certainly, there has been no consensus, and we
>> are again back to telling Milton what his syntax means and that Milton's
>> word "to" really means another ("TOWARDS") and that we know "clearly"
>> who Milton's audience is.
>> Moreover, I do not think that there is any hope for such consensus.  (See earlier
>> posts by me, John Leonard, James Rovira (to some extent), and Hannibal
>> Hamlin.)  There is certainly no consensus in the scholarly community,
>> either, as evidenced by numerous recent works of scholarship."
>>
>> Carl Bellinger wrote: "First, "men" is clearly not the indirect object of
>> "justify"; Milton's target audience for his great Argument goes without
>> saying; he is not addressing angels, loyal or perfidious, [etc.] Second,
>> the special need for a forensic exercise--a defense of God against the
>> charge of injustice to men--becomes abundantly clear as the poem goes
>> on..." "
>>
>> If I've understood the above comments correctly, I side strongly with
>> Brendan, especially with his statement "Moreover, I do not think there is
>> any hope for such consensus". There can't ever be consensus, because the
>> above captioned phrase is so completely ambiguous, and each reading
>> provides the basis for very different ways of reading the poem as a whole.
>>
>> The one thing that is abundantly clear to me about Milton is that he was
>> aware of the ambiguity of the famous phrase in the above Subject Line -- he
>> was aware of it, because his overarching goal in writing the entire poem
>> was to deliberately create ambiguity at every possible level of
>> interpretation.
>>
>> Why? Because the ability to recognize ambiguity, and to keep plausible
>> alternative interpretations of everything in our world in mind at the same
>> time, is the skill Milton wished to cultivate in the people reading his
>> poem. He was no angel telling humankind to confine our curioslty to small
>> things, Milton was a serpent handing us a particularly tasty piece of
>> fruit.
>>
>> He's not the only writer who did this -- Shakespeare, Richardson, Austen,
>> the list goes on -- they deliberately created ambiguity in order to show
>> us, via our disagreements, that we should not be too quick to leap to a
>> feeling of certainty in our opinions, but to work harder to recognize how
>> our own assumptions make us prone to leaping to one interpretation when
>> another one is also plausible.
>>
>> If Milton had wanted to be clear, he was certainly capable of being clear
>> in his grammar, especially in what is arguably the most important line in
>> the entire poem! He chose to play games with the reader, so that we would
>> have to struggle to decide if he was (as Blake put it) of the devil's party
>> or not -- but I depart from Blake in one way -- I think Milton's goal was
>> to make us uncertain about whose party he identified with, he did NOT
>> unwittingly take Satan's side.
>>
>> Milton was all about making the unwitting witting.
>>
>> Cheers, ARNIE PERLSTEIN
>> @JaneAustenCode on Twitter
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
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>
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