[Milton-L] Milton's Deliberate Ambiguities

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sun Sep 3 12:56:13 EDT 2017

Yes, Milton was unusual (and not just in his talent).  For his whole mature period, from the early 40's on, even when he was a Presbyterian in church-government, he was an Arminian iconoclast.  This is what made him an unusual "puritan."  For a while he was  Calvinist with regard to church-government; he was never a Calvinist with regard to theology.  And he never thought that buildings were "holy."


From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> on behalf of James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
Sent: Sunday, September 3, 2017 10:42:10 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton's Deliberate Ambiguities

Hannibal -- Do you think that Milton was intentionally indifferent to theological concerns within Paradise Lost? Isn't he allowed to make a definite statement here too? I think some of this discussion hinges on one's definition of theology, which can be systematic, devotional, dogmatic, experiential, etc. Not all of theology consists of declarations of rigid orthodoxy that must be adhered to at all costs and in all contexts.

Theodicy is a recognized subfield of theology like epistemology is a recognized subfield of philosophy. I think if someone is committed to a complete reading of PL, then theology has to be taken into account. But that is not to say that every act of reading or interpretation of PL has to take theology into account, just that it is a mistake to dismiss those concerns.

Readers' preconceptions or personal commitments are frankly irrelevant to me. They always still have to marshal evidence and arguments to present their case, and every case has to be accepted or rejected on the strength of the evidence and arguments presented. I think distorted arguments occur most frequently when Milton is being required to fit a certain model or defend a specific orthodoxy, whether atheist or theological.

I think the truth is that he was somewhat uniquely heterodox, like Blake, so that what we do is compare him to other models in order to understand him on his own terms, but we have to resort to a variety of conflicting models in order to do so.

Jim R
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