Greetings all. I've just finished reading my post-end-of-semester backlog of Milton-L, feeling both chagrined to have missed participating in some of the dialogue and delighted to enter the fray now. I have to say that the anticipation of Michael Bryson's entry into the present discussion was exhilarating. Whoever quipped earlier about academics being cheap dates was right. Cheap, but never easy...
<br><br>I think the question Michael raises about what Milton is doing with his depiction of God needs to be addressed en route to assessing "Milton's God" qualitatively. C.S. Lewis, I think in _A Grief Observed_, suggests that God is an iconoclast who must shatter our ideas of him from time to time. I believe a similar idea also arises in _The Screwtape Letters_. Without necessarily bringing the level of personal investment in the question, so poignantly evident in Lewis's book, to bear, I think the representational difficulties Milton needed to grapple with in writing PL (cf. Fish) raise the possibility of a deliberately iconoclastic representation of God. While I am not prepared to argue the point conclusively (I can at best claim to be a "budding" Miltonist), let me explain what I mean by such a representation and why I think it might be relevant.
<br><br>A deliberately iconoclastic representation would be one characterized by deliberate paradoxes or inconsistencies that invite the reader to challenge the validity of the representation, hopefully in fruitful ways. A risky approach, to be sure, but consider the project of justifying the ways of God to man in the context of 17th-century pamphlet wars and religious controversy, particularly in a poem composed by a major participant in these controversies after his faction's defeat. I think such a project, undertaken in such circumstances, would almost presuppose some necessary re-education of one's readers, aka iconoclasm (something the author of _Eikonoklastes_ had attempted before). Which raises the question of who exactly belongs to the "fit audience, though few." The warfaring/wayfaring Christian of Areopagitica, perhaps?
<br><br>In short, while I am not yet sure whether or not this is definitely what Milton is doing in PL, the question is still open in my mind. Michael, with his idea of "leave-taking," seems to suggest something similar to what I am saying here. At any rate, the question of how the God of PL relates to the God Milton believed in/advocated for (a thorny question also tangled in issues of representation) seems a crucial one to ask if we are to understand how PL functions as theodicy and whether or not it succeeds.
<br><br>I look forward to much further conversation.<br><br>Best,<br>Jason A. Kerr<br>Boston College<br><br>P.S. Apologies in advance for all bad jokes, past, present, and future. Take what comfort you can in knowing that the most egregious tend to be edited out in advance. When you start seeing my name on conference programs in the next few years, come prepared to cringe, and I'll try not to disappoint. ;p
<br clear="all"><br>-- <br>"Den som vover mister Fodfæste et Øieblick;<br>den som ikke vover mister Livet."<br> -Søren Kierkegaard