[Milton-L] Appropriation of Areopagitica

Kevin Donovan Kevin.Donovan at mtsu.edu
Thu Aug 2 14:08:13 EDT 2018

Yes, John. Among other topics, David Harper cites the ways in which Milton consistently associated gunpowder with diabolism.

From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu] On Behalf Of John Leonard
Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2018 1:03 PM
To: milton-l at richmond.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Appropriation of Areopagitica

The inventor of the 3D printed gun might also ponder these words from book six of Paradise Lost:

The invention all admired, and each how he

To be the inventor missed; so easy it seemed,

Once found, which yet unfound most would have thought


Impossible: yet, haply, of thy race,

In future days, if malice should abound,

Some one, intent on mischief, or inspired

With devilish machination, might devise

Like instrument to plague the sons of men


For sin, on war and mutual slaughter bent.

From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu>> on behalf of Carol Barton, PhD, CPCM <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net<mailto:cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>>
Sent: August 2, 2018 1:50:28 PM
To: milton-l at richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l at richmond.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Appropriation of Areopagitica

Which just goes to prove that even lunatics (mis)read Milton, Kevin. Except, perhaps, when a massive tome has been catapulted at someone's head, no book has ever been used to commit murder; and Milton's stance on pre-publication censorship at a time when most idiots like Wilson couldn't read was contingent upon the moral character and intelligence of the consumer, who, he was sure, would self-censor anything that was objectionable-not on the warped value systems of homicidal lunatics and terrorists who will jump at the chance to produce untraceable weapons. The most ludicrous argument of all is the one that says "3-D printers are expensive"-as if that ever stopped the mob, or the terrorists. "Spiritual analogue" indeed: we know what abiding respect our boy had for the mob.

I'm glad David Harper took Wilson's psychotic diatribe on, and will be interested to see what he has to say. Thanks for letting us know about this.

Best to all,

Carol Barton
Carol Barton, PhD, CPCM

On Aug 2, 2018, at 1:01 PM, Kevin Donovan <Kevin.Donovan at mtsu.edu<mailto:Kevin.Donovan at mtsu.edu>> wrote:

Members of this list may be interested to know that the current furore over proposals to allow 3D printing of firearms in the U.S. surprisingly intersects with Milton studies. David Harper's essay "The Scanning of Error" in the collection Milton, Materialism, and Embodiment (Duquesne UP, 2017) examines the "political appropriation" of Areopagitica in a manifesto by the gun activist Cody Wilson, who cited Milton's tract in defense of his disseminating free designs for a fully functional, print-at-home gun.  Areopagitica's argument against the law passed in 1644 requiring that books be licensed before publication apparently was deemed by Wilson to provide an intellectual precedent and justification-or, as Wilson called it, a "spiritual analogue"-for his project of facilitating "the endless, unregulated production of guns." Harper demonstrates various ways in which Milton's protest against a particular kind of regulation of printed books is ill suited to a defense of unregulated "printing" of firearms.

Here's a link to a description of Milton, Materialism, and Embodiment at Penn State UP's website:

Kevin J. Donovan
Professor and Graduate Program Director
English Department, Peck Hall 316
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 70
Murfreesboro TN 37132
Ph: 615-898-2665

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