Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Ethics of Gatekeeping Revisited

Unsurprisingly, the feedback I received in class on my last post was essentially: sounds interesting, but what's your thesis? Not that I didn't have a thesis; it was just buried deep in rumination. I'm studying the personal/lyrical/Montaignian essay at the moment, which means I'm trying to spend more time transcribing internal debates than advancing arguments. It's also why this post begins in this rambling sort of way, rather than simply saying: I'm setting aside my interest in the dangers of knowing and retreating from my discussion of LDS cultural policy to focus (once again) on Milton's ethics on gatekeeping.

So, Andrew, this means I'm addressing the questions and concerns:
I think the topic of the role of "gate-keepers" of knowledge is a fascinating one. Where did Milton see gate-keepers as fitting in? Is there a place for gate-keepers, or do they just result in more damage (as Rafael arguably did with Adam and Eve)? That's a lot to cover in just 3-4 pages even without connecting it to modern LDS times, but I look forward to seeing what you do with it. Good luck!
My (tentative) thesis statement is as follows:
Milton's Areopagitica argues in favor of the free marketplace of ideas, but his laissez-faire philosophy does not extend beyond the political sphere; in both Areopagitica and Paradise Lost, Milton implies the exchange of knowledge can, and even should, be managed under certain circumstances.
Eh? What say ye, fellow bloggers?

Also, if you're not interested in dissecting my claim, you're welcome to imagine and comment on whether Milton would have been more or less hansom had he grown a mustache like Montaigne's.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Free Choice: Pre-Write

Thesis: In Paradise Lost, God forbids Adam and Eve to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil much in the same way that governments or other higher powers practice censorship and forbid certain ideas from the public as address in Areopagitica. 

--Why doesn't God want Adam and Eve to have knowledge of Good and Evil?
          Most likely, he is trying to protect them. He wants them to enjoy their lives without them having to experience or really know about evil. I kind of get upset about this--God gives them free choice, so He is almost setting them up to fail in the first place, especially because he gives them the commandment (along with not eating the fruit of that tree) to multiply and replenish the Earth. Is that possible without becoming moral (which eating the fruit would cause)? 
          Anyways, this kind of "protection" from knowledge is similar to what is addressed in Areopagitica. Much of the texts that are banned from readers go against the church or are of some heretical nature. The root of the reason of wanting to ban these kinds of works is actually good--to protect people from the evils outside of the church that might make them fall away. We are deprived certain knowledge because it's assumed that we would be unable to handle it without being negatively influenced by the content. 

--Choice is taken away when we are unable to actually choose good over evil.
          I addressed this in another one of my posts: "No reason or agency is involved when we choose good over evil, simply because evil is not available to us by our mothers." (Obviously, the wording would change with the situation.) Isn't knowing someone is choosing good over evil because they personally rejected evil and chose to be good...as opposed to choosing good because they didn't even know there was another option? How beneficial is censorship in the end? We are "good people" because we were led to it, but is that sincere goodness? Besides, sin still exists, even if the books about it are taken away. You can only be protected so much.

Prewriting: Milton and Cromwell

I have been intrigued by Milton's involvement in the Interregnum, both in his position in the government during it and in the way in which he was sometimes at odds with those in power (as in Areopagitica).  While Roland Barthes would argue that "the author is dead," I believe that one key looking at Paradise Lost is to consider the Interregnum, specifically looking at Oliver Cromwell.  I believe that Cromwell served as partial inspiration for Milton's portrayal of Satan, in that Cromwell was the head of a democratically-inspired rebellion against the monarchy that ultimately failed within Milton's lifetime.  Also, while Satan uses democratic ideals to inspire his fellow angels (and later demons), he ends up distorting those values to become a dictator; this is analogous to Cromwell leading a democratic civil war against the English king, only to set himself up as the "protectorate".

I am still working on this thesis and the supporting arguments.  Any suggestions that you might have are appreciated.

Some resources:

  • Areopagitica
  • Eikonclastes
  • Paradise Lost
  • Article:  "'Warring Chains of Signifiers':   Metaphoric Ambivalence and the Politics of Paradise Lost".  (link to article on JSTOR:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/40755264)
  • Article:  "The Art of Oblivion:  Politics of remembering and forgetting in Restoration England"

Adam and Humanity Pre-write

I'm still a little frustrated figuring out how to best work this argument, so any and all suggestions are welcome.

Thesis: Although Adam and Eve are the first of the human race, it is inaccurate to consider them as symbolic representations of the race as a whole by the way they think, feel, and behave in Milton's Paradise Lost.

Milton's beliefs in the acts of the individual and the timing of knowledge.
  1. Not all men are condemned to the fall/fate. Each has an individual choice and temptation that is separate from Adam's. Example- Abdiel's solitary return to the side of God.
  2. Areopagitica- God has endowed each of his children with reason and conscience and the ability to act for himself.
  3. Adam's sin was to seek knowledge before it was allotted him, but Milton sees knowledge as the redeeming power-- he writes in Of Education: "The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright."
 Adam's traits/failures are his own and separate from other men.
  1. There are other members of the human race who are described as successfully keeping God's commandments, i.e. Enoch, Noah, Abraham in Books XI and XII.
  2. There are also members who are more rebellious than Adam during the Fall, such as Cain, whom Adam sees in Book XI.
  3. Therefore, the scope of humanity's potential for righteousness and wickedness is not represented by Adam and Eve's actions. 
Adam and Eve's experiences are exclusive and alienate them from the rest of their race.
  1. Adam and Eve are the only members of the race to have gone from Eden to a fallen world. 
  2. They only encounter through vision some of the great struggles of Milton's era (especially problems of politics and censorship.) In the visions Michael shows Adam, Adam feels distanced from his posterity.
  3. Adam and Eve can't function as paradigms of our race when they have extreme life experiences that are exclusive to only themselves.
I'm also considering exploring Milton's portrayal of Adam and Eve more as caricatures than characters and how this further distances them from the human experience.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
 


Pre-Writing

I still need to narrow my ideas down, but here's what I have so far! Personally, I think I'm intrigued most by option 2. 

1.Feminists have largely accused Milton of being one of the first major authors to portray Eve as a submissive and susceptible woman, lending credence to centuries of oppressions; yet, I believe Milton supports Eve by detailing her quest for knowledge, a theme personally relevant to Milton, and ultimately enables Eve with power and wisdom through her choice to sacrifice all for the pursuit of knowledge.

  • Milton's Divorce Tracts also encourage well-matched couples, who are intellectually suitable
  • Milton stresses the importance of knowledge across all his works, but especially in Areopagitica, so it draws attention to the fact that EVE is the one who seeks more knowledge by eating the fruit
  • Feminists widely clamor to blame Eve, but why not consider the opposite viewpoint? Milton himself sought a wife to challenge and love him, and perhaps Eve represents that mystifying woman he's always sought after
 2. In Areopagitiica Milton expresses his displeasure at the censorship of literature by the government. Paraidse Lost also presents the issue of knowing too much versus too little and the consequences of trying to attain more information. Milton's feelings are now paralleled across time as the battle of digital licensing and security surveillance is being waged between the average citizen and government powers.
  • Restricted knowledge in Paradise Lost leads to sin and downfall because of the desire to know more
  • Censorship, as mentioned in Areopagitica, limits human growth and like Paradise Lost can only invite danger
  • Current society has a wealth of knowledge at hand and can access any information instantaneously. the government is threatened by it and so it monitors usage, or tries to find legal ways to limit access. 
 


Post-Colonial Paradise Lost Pre-write

The Motherland and her dependent colonial offspring
by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Thesis Statement:
Although Milton's Of Reformation and Paradise Lost still share many similarities with other works under postcolonial criticism, they ultimately condemn colonialization and predict the eventual dissolution of the English Empire.

Parallels between colonial history and Paradise Lost, Satan and colonizers both:
  • Oppose higher power and cause a civil war
  • Move across expanse to new, beautiful land
  • Encounter beautiful, unintelligent, indigenous people
  • Cause the downfall of the indigenous with words
  • Return as conqueror
  • NEW TWIST (main difference from many other works under postcolonial criticism): Satan (colonizer) is punished

Quotes showing Milton's prediction in Of Reformation:

"In all these things hath the Kingdome been of late sorely weakened, and chiefly by the Prelates. What numbers of faithful and freeborn Englishmen and good Christians have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends, and kindred, whom nothing but the wide Ocean, and the savage deserts of America could hide and shelter from the fury of the Bishops."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Milton and Satan: my pre-write

Hey, so here’s my basic outline. I'm taking elements from my previous blogs: 
http://teammilton.blogspot.com/2013/10/during-miltons-time-it-seemed-that.html
http://teammilton.blogspot.com/2013/10/miltons-personal-influence-on-satan-in.html
http://teammilton.blogspot.com/2013/10/honesty-in-satan-paradox.html

Outline
-Intro/thesis: I want to compare personality traits between Satan and Milton, particularly in their views of the Church, or in this case authority over religion. The fact that Milton is channeling his own views and personality into the character Satan of Paradise Lost suggests that Milton is portraying himself as an anti-hero that is fighting against the authority of the Church.

Towards Mormopagitica

I've had a running internal/external debate in my head for the past ten... no make that fifteen years on the worth of wickedness observed. On the one hand, I think of the often graphic horrors opened in visions by the Lord to His prophets; if God saw fit to put wickedness on display for Isaiah, John the Revelator, there must be some value derived from it, right? And ancient american prophets seemed to view the records of the Gadianton robbers to be important to their education, right? But on the other hand, I argue that God and his anointed were the gate-keepers in both instances; maybe only He and the prophets who share His secrets are physicians fit to prescribe such useful drugs. Then again, don't we believe in an egalitarian God who upbraids not when any man seeks knowledge in faith?
"To both these objections one answer will serve, out of the grounds already laid, that to all men such books are not temptations, nor vanities; but useful drugs."
And so I've gone round and round. I suppose I should sit down to read and write and pray about it. But I have little confidence, at present, in settling the question by an appeal to King James, Mormon, or Milton. Rather, when stirred by Areopagitica and Paradise Lost, I find myself thinking about the official narrative of LDS history. Happily, it seems we are moving towards the free market of thought advocated so well by Milton in Areopagitica. I suppose this change in policy--where we find the Joseph Smith papers published unedited, and where CES teachers are being instructed to address uncomfortable facts rather than merely avoiding them, and where Pres. Uchtdorff and others frankly acknowledge the reality that LDS leaders have sometimes acted and spoken out of harmony with eternal truth--has been a necessary fruit of the internet: a digital tree whose broad boughs put the knowledge of good and evil at the fingertips of millions.

So where does this all essay? Toward confidence, calmed by faith. The bittersweet fruits of good and evil knowledge have been tasted in other worlds, including Milton's. It's natural to wish for cultural-narrative control, but can we become saints, individually or collectively, without confessing our fathers' transgressions?

Pre-writing, Strength in Submission

I want to look at the perspective of Eve's nature through contrasting her decisions and fate with Satan's to show that Eve's weaknesses end up becoming her strengths, and without them, though the fall may not have happened, redemption would have not been possible without application of those same weaknesses.

Thesis:
While Eve's portrayal in Paradise Lost seems to set women as the weaker gender, the great irony of Milton's epic poem is that it ennobles weakness and degrades strength; Eve finds redemption in her “weakness”, while Satan remains fallen because of his “strength”.
  
Quotes:
“All is not lost; the unconquerable will, And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield: And what is else not to be overcome?”
Book 2 Lines 106-109

“O then at last relent: is there no place Left for repentance, none for pardon left? None left but by submission; and that word Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame Among the spirits beneath, whom I seduced With other promises and other vaunts Than to submit, boasting I could subdue Th’ Omnipotent.”
Book 4: 78-88

“But what if God have seen, And death ensue? Then I shall be no more, And Adam wedded to another Eve, Shall live with her enjoying, I extinct; A death to think. Confirmed then I resolve; Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe: So dear I love him, that with him all deaths I could endure, without him live no life.”
Book 9: 826-833 (dependance on Adam)

Adam “And me with thee hath ruined, for with thee Certain my resolution is to die; How can I live without thee, how forgo Thy sweet converse and love so dearly joined, To live again in these wild woods forlorn?”
Book 9: 906-910


Basic outline:
  1. Introduction
  2. Characterizations
    A. Weakness of Eve
    B. Strength of Satan
  3. Two falls
    A. Eve's decisions
    B. Satan's decisions
  4. One Redemption
    A. Eve's dependence
    B. Satan's refusal to submit
  5. Conclusion

Prewriting for Man of Sin: Milton's Satan Figure as a Reflection of Fallen Man

Satan in Eden (1866), by  Gustave Doré
These are just some thoughts that have been going through my head as I've been trying to put together my formal argument for a paper that I'm writing on Milton's Satan figure as a lens for understanding man's fallen condition.

Thesis: In Paradise Lost, although Milton draws upon strong religious and archetypal currents in crafting his Satan figure around the image of the Biblical adversary, Satan's condition should be interpreted rather as a depraved state of mankind comparable to (though by no means equivalent to) that of Adam and Eve following their fall from Eden. The archfiend's condition, then, becomes a lens for understanding the human emotions of pride, grief/loss, and doubt.

Commence Thought Vomit
The Fall should be understood not as an individual choice nor a bipartite decision but rather as the combined efforts of Adam, Eve, and Satan, each in a position of inferiority to God--> semi-Marxist.

Pre-write! Censorship and the Fall of Adam and Eve

Working Thesis:
Milton utilizes his points established in Areopagitica to orchestrate the action in Paradise Lost in order to suggest that censorship is the cause of the Fall of Adam and Eve. (in order to further his point that censorship really stinks).

[I've been reworking and narrowing my thesis a bit. What do you think? Too broad? Too narrow? Too vague? Not worded well? Just right?] I'll obviously dress the last parenthetical part up a bit but is adding that giving me too much to chew in just a 3-4 page paper?

[Interesting Intro]
[Common Ground] (Milton is depicting the story of the Creation and Fall of Mankind because he wants to write the "English Epic" for the sake of glory, honor, tradition, etc.)
[Disrupting the Common Ground] While this is true, Milton also uses Paradise Lost as a narrative platform to demonstrate the points he has attempted to refute within society. I claim that Milton is making the claim that censorship is the root of the cause of the Fall. (in order to further his point that censorship really stinks).
[Support/Explain]
 - Areopagitica - major points, especially the pieces that have the most significance to what happens in the Garden
 - Raphael, Adam, and Eve - where does censorship occur? (pick one or two instances, the most significant ones that you think are what lead to the Fall! You don't have enough room for them all.)
 - Why do these instances necessarily lead to the Fall/how are they related to what Milton was arguing for in Areopagitica?
[Conclusion]


Milton & Relationships

Thesis: 

Adam and Eve’s unbalanced relationship dynamic is usually read in the light of divinely appointed dominance and submission, but when compared to Milton’s own sentiments in his divorce tracts the theme is less of an adulation of traditional values and more of a criticism of the society that provided them.


Quotes:

“Sole Eve, assosciate sole, to me beyond
Compare above all living creatures dear,
Well hast thou motioned, well thy thoughts employed
How we might best fulfil the work which here
God hath assigned us, nor of me shalt pass
Unpraised: for nothing lovelier can be found
In woman than to study household good,
And good works in her husband promote.” - Book 9, lines 227-234


"And in herself complete so well to know
Her own that what she wills to do or say
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best.
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded. Wisdom in discourse with her
Loses discount'nanced and like folly shows." -Book 8, lines 548-553


"God is thy law, thou mine: to know no more is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise." Book 4, lines 637-638


God tells Adam "warn thy weaker" (Eve), and "let it profit thee to have heard by terrible example the reward of disobedience" Book 6, lines 909-911


Adam says, "solitude sometimes is best society, and short retirement urges sweet return." Book 9, lines 249-250

Prospective Sources:


Very rough outline:

I. Introduction
II. Context
A. Milton’s marital situation at the time of the tracts
B. The tracts themselves
C. Adam and Eve’s relationship
III. Imbalance of relationships
IV. Doomed from the start?
V. Hope for the future
IV. Conclusion

Prewriting Exercise: Milton and Othello


Outline
  1. Introduction
  2. On Shakespeare
    1. Honoring the Bard in Folio
    2. Shakespeare's Monument
  3. Othello, A Model
    1. Iago the Villain
    2. Heavenly Airs
  4. Paradise Lost
    1. Satan
    2. Heavenly Airs
  5. Comparison
    1. Patience
    2. Aiming for the Woman
      1. Desdemona
      2. Eve
    3. Man's Undoing
      1. Othello
      2. Adam
    4. Consequences
      1. Death
  6. Conclusion

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflection from Within: Satan's Transformation

I was a little surprised at the transformation of Satan and the devils into serpents in book 10. I wasn't really expecting that to happen. It was interesting because I remember how in the beginning of Paradise Lost, I was struck by how the demons and fallen angels were much more human than I anticipated. However, now, it seems that they've lost their humanity and became "thick swarming now, / with complicated monsters head and tail."

When I read this section, the big question that came to my mind was whether this transformation was simply reducing the demons of hell to a monster-like state, or showing them a reflection of their souls. I remember how in the beginning they looked rather fair and even the description of Satan himself was like the description of a prince. Now, these monsters seem to reflect their true nature of malice and hatred. It's mentioned that the serpent  "and color serpentine may show / thy inward fraud, to show all creatures from thee." Their new appearances seem to reflect their true natures. Now these devils seem to be truly cursed. Instead of simply being banished to Hell, they are transformed and become creatures of Hell.

An interesting fact was the devils' reactions. They seemed to be horrified by the transformation, showing their own disgust at their appearances. Even Satan was surprised and disgusted by his new form. This makes me wonder of the relationship of how Satan sees himself and how his soul truly is. Satan may see himself as a stately prince, or a fallen angel, but perhaps his true form is a slimy subtle serpent. I suppose it's part of the idea of how Milton portrays Satan as the main protagonist in this story. In this case, is Satan's transformation supposed to be a victory or a tragedy in the minds of the readers? I'll have to look more into this.

Discord, the Animals, and the Restored Gospel

Best to just let these two work things out on their own.
As a part of the forces of darkness invading earth, Milton talks about Discord causing the animals to be at conflict with one another, which for obvious reasons causes Adam distress. There are several scriptural passages that talk about the restoration of peace among the animal kingdom during the Millenial reign.

I had always assumed that it was the restoration of the earth to its celestial state that would cause the animals to return to their pre-Fall behavior. I came across an interesting article in the August 1972 Ensign, a section of which reads:

"During the Zion’s Camp expedition in the summer of 1834, an incident occurred that allowed a practical application of concern for animal life. As related by the Prophet Joseph Smith in his history:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paradise Lost and the Fall: Men as Superiors

Keep reading, my post will deal with this eventually.
As a modern reader of Paradise Lost I am always tempted to look at Adam and Eve as equals and apply that belief to the story. But the fact of the matter is that Adam and Eve are never equals in this story. Adam is always superior. This should be unsurprising given the anti-feminist movement going on during Milton's day. He would have had easy access to the pamphlets circulating, as scholars such as Shannon Miller suggest. It's easy to read Milton's poem and think, "Yeah, here's another example of misogyny," yet the arguments between Adam and Eve in Book X of Milton's poem actually allows readers to consider the whole premise of the Fall. Women during Milton's day were looked at as seducers because of the interpretation of the creation myth, and so any arguments women made for themselves were looked at as seductive and not to be trusted. So when Adam blames Eve when God asks what's up, he has a perfectly valid excuse for blaming her: she was obviously up to no good. What's a man to do when she can't even open her mouth without trying to sway him from his will?

So how does this all tie in with my first idea, that Adam is always superior and never looks at Eve as an equal? Well, it has to do with the many Adam and Eve creation myths circulating out there.

Who's to blame? --and-- Moving out

          I think my favorite part about both of these books was the difference in Adam's and Eve's responses when God asked them to explain.
          Adam: "This woman who thou mad'st to be my help,/ And gav'st me as they perfect gift, so good,/ So fit, so acceptable, so divine,/ That from her hand I could suspect no ill,/ And what she did, whatever in itself,/ Her doing seemed to justify the deed;/ She gave me of the tree, and I did eat." (And that's not even all of it...)
          Eve: "The Serpent me beguiled and I did eat."
          Way to keep it simple, Eve. Although, I do see why Adam is pretty eager to explain himself. While keeping it simple can help in certain situations (I think most situations), sometimes you just have to stick up for yourself.
          A good time to keep it simple is when your boss comments on you being late for work. They don't want to hear your excuses, no matter how legitimate--and sometimes they are very legitimate! Just take responsibility and move on. It's better for everyone. Taking the rap for the fall, however...I'd get my side of the story out there when possible, too, Adam.
          I'll want to get deeper into some of the influences people and their relationships can have on each other, but I'll probably get to that when we are supposed to have read Samson and Delila...

A picture to keep you going.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pointing Fingers: "The Doctrine of Responsibility"

It shouldn't be surprising that there are times while reading Paradise Lost and while discussing the story of the Fall in general that I have been affronted/offended/indignant of the blame and inherent sin that is associated with Eve and the rest of the female sex. I don't think I have to label myself as a feminist to resent that smear for simply being born with the sensibilities of a woman.

So it wasn't Eve's fault that humanity fell?


Well, I don't think it is fair to put the entirety of the blame on Eve. When someone makes a big mistake what do we look at to figure out why? Their background, their understanding, their environment, their influences, and their relationships.

It was Adam's fault, then? 

Some see it that way. "Dennis Burden cogently argues that Milton would not allow so important an event as the fall to occur under circumstance arrived at only by chance...To exercise independent choice, says Burden, is a liberty improper to woman." He argues that it was actually Adam's fault that Eve ate the fruit because with his higher intellectual reasoning power should not have given into her passion and weaker intellect.
Frankly, I resent that argument, too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Why Comes not Death"

I simply couldn't resist the chance to include a clip from Wit as pertaining to death. I only discovered it a few days ago, but I felt so inspired and enlightened by this clip that it's dominated my thoughts for the past three days. 
Keeping that in mind, I want to move on to Paradise Lost, because a couple lines have changed the way that I think about death and redemption. The following come from Adam's 'lamentation' near the end of Book X:

The Catalyst of Creation: Surprised by Saintliness

Stanley Fish would argue that as we read Paradise Lost, we feel for the character of Satan and that surprises us. To over-simplify his argument, we, as inherently good creatures, are surprised by what is deemed "other."

In Book VIII and IX of Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve have a similar experience as the reader. There is one specific time in which Adam's curiosity is aroused by the mysteries of God's creations and upon seeking explanation from Raphael is charged to
"Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid;
Leave them to God above; him serve, and fear.
. . . Heaven is for thee too high
To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
Think only what concerns thee, and thy being;"
Adam is charged, not with sin, but with what could become sin. Eve, too, upon having the dream of eating the fruit has not sinned, but the seed of sin has been planted. Both husband and wife are surprised at this troubling event leading us to infer that they are, in fact, pure. Sin and the idea that it is within their capabilities is surprising and therefore "other."

The mysteries of God's creations also illicit surprise from quite another source. Here is Satan's reaction to God's crowning achievement, Eve:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beauty and Hatred: Satan's Relationship with Eve and Nature

I have to say I'm fascinated with the character of Satan. And now, he's gotten even more intriguing in his interactions with Eve. I'm particularly interested in how Satan views himself in regards to God, nature, and even Eve. At this point, Satan seems to be in this state of instability in that he has this mixture of both hatred and awe for Eve and her blinding beauty. Satan seems to operate in this paradox of being fallen and yet being stirred up in realization of his fallen nature. He's constantly realizing that perhaps he was wrong in his convictions and yet he refuses to redeem himself, thinking he is beyond help, regardless of whether he is or not.

I saw this instability several times in this book, especially when he says that he can not enjoy the simple pleasures of nature, saying, "all good to me becomes / Bane; and in Heav'n much worse would be my state." Satan seems to constantly have these moments when he sees the grand beauty and goodness of the earth and nature and instead of it pleasing him, he almost despises it. He acknowledges the goodness of the beautiful nature and is in awe of it, but he hates it. It's this interesting dynamic going on that has him in this paradoxical state.

The same thing happens on a more powerful level when he comes across Eve. When Satan first sees her, he is astonished at her beauty and grace to the point that his convictions are shaken for a moment. It says, "her graceful innocence, her every air / of gesture or least action overawed / his malice." But then he recalls with bitterness that this pleasure is not his and "fierce hate he recollects, and all his thoughts / of mischief, gratulating, thus excites." Satan's pride and hatred comes back, stabilizing his conviction to destroy mankind, including Eve. What's interesting is how it's Eve's beauty that shakes Satan up so much into a moment of uncertainty. This tension of the hatred of Satan and the terrifying beauty of Eve is something I'll have to look at more.

"And what is faith, love, virtue unassayed..."

I have to say, considering that Adam and Eve were "as little children" in the Garden of Eden, they both have a grasp on the English language far above anything that I can aspire to.  Book IX of PL is a prime example of the use of rhetoric and it illustrates the dangers of it's misuse as Satan crafts a solid-seeming argument for eating the fruit that induces Eve to eat.  But this begs the question:  how much of this did Eve already have in mind?  I'm not suggesting that Eve set out that day with the intent to eat the fruit and openly defy God, but I do wonder how much she had progression in mind.  Even in Milton's version of the paradisiacal Garden of Eden, the Garden seems to be a place of stasis—pleasant stasis, granted, but stasis nonetheless.  The existence is apparently one of gentle garden work in lopping, pruning, propping, and binding the plants of the Garden each day.  To what effect, though?  The fruit grows freely and plentifully in the Garden and there is always plenty to eat, and Eve says that any work that they do is essentially undone in one or two nights (see ll. 209-212).  So what is the point of their labor in the Garden?  Perhaps God was giving them "busy work" until the Fall happened.

Milton gives us a sense that Eve is seeking to prove herself out of some misplaced pride, but I think there is an argument to be made for her seeking progression from her current state.  After all, one of the most appealing arguments that the serpent makes to her is that by eating she will ascend to a higher plane of existence.  He says, "...in the day / Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear, / Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then / Opened and cleared, and ye shall be as gods, / Knowing both good and evil as they know" (ll. 705-709).  Eve wants more than the simplicity that she and Adam experience in the Garden.  She wants to achieve higher things and reach higher levels.  Adam appears fairly content in this simple existence, but Eve wants more.

Latter-day Saints have a different view on the Fall of Adam and Eve, of course, and as a Mormon I'm obviously going to bring some of that to what I read.  Probably Milton didn't give Eve as much credit as we do when it comes to her decision to eat the fruit, but I don't think she is meant to be seen as an idiot.  After all, he basically has Eve quote himself in making her arguments.  Milton said in the Areopagitica, "As therefore the state of man now is, what wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear without the knowledge of evil?" (location 32231).  Eve reflects this sentiment in Book IX when she says "And what is faith, love, virtue unassayed / Alone, without exterior help sustained?" (ll. 335-336).  No progression is possible without knowledge.

Accidental or Purposeful Action: Sacrifices for the Greater Good

I feel so clever that I came up with that meme all on my own;] First one ever! Not that that is necessarily something to be proud of...but I feel in context of Milton it is the "one job to do" of all "one job to do"'s.

This particular conundrum is actually one of the main reasons I decided to take the Milton course. I think this little seeming paradox is fascinating. God told them to be fruitful and multiply but told them not to eat the fruit...which in our LDS faith we generally believe is what gives them the knowledge of how to do that ("plenishing" the earth I mean). Milton's account obviously depicts differently.In fact, it is pretty evident from the text that Adam and Eve fully expect other people to join them.

Problems and False Starts

I was so excited about the concepts concerning the implications of communicated knowledge in Areopagitica that I had all but decided on restricting my study of Milton to an exploration of that text. At first, I was mainly interested in how Milton's rhetoric might inform libertarians in our current age, as demonstrated by this false-start I never posted:




But I'm also fascinated by the concepts that intersect with Book IX of Paradise Lost, especially as they pertain to Mormon studies in a digital age (a preoccupation of mine evidenced by Ships of Hagoth).

If time were not an issue, I would explore the following subjects:

  1. Milton's thoughts on the ethics and implications of personal and communicated knowledge, as expressed in Paradise Lost and Areopagitica
  2. Doctrines, attitudes and histories of the LDS Church and it's members on the ethics and implications of personal and communicated knowledge
  3. Challenges and implications of the above in a digital world
As it stands, that list looks like an elephant so large, it would take years to digest, even at the rational rate of one bite at a time.

[Blogger sighs with exaspiration.]

Exploring Scripture Through Prose

The act of exploring scripture through prose is a very interesting idea. It is easy to think that it would be a dangerous attempt, being forced to take so many liberties and explore things the scriptures often remain silent or vague about. Is it always a good idea? What are some of the pros and cons? Right now I'm having a hard time thinking of any legitimate cons. We could obviously never call it doctrine, but imagining and recreating the great events of scripture in such a way opens doors of thought that are super interesting to explore. I would love to read/write a tragedy of this type from the perspective of Moroni, maybe starting from the point of Mormon 8:


 1 Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father.
 2 And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed.
 3 And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. And whether they will slay me, I know not.
 4 Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not.
 5 Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof. And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not


That's some great tragedy material. And, like Samson in Milton's tragedy, reading such an exploration could cause the reader to have a greater appreciation for what Moroni had to go through and reflect on his situation. I found Milton's Agonistes extremely redeeming for Samson as a character in a way I had never pictured Samson in my reading of the scriptural story.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Her the Inferior, Yet...

Yeah Milton, put Satanic Eve in her place.
    "Of Nature her the inferior, in the mind
    And inward faculties, which most excel;
    In outward also her resembling less
    His image who made both, and less expressing
    The character of that dominion given
    O'er other creatures:"

    Many female critics abhor this section of Paradise Lost where Adam is describing his reaction to Eve. Sandra M. Gilbert, speaking specifically of this attitude in Milton's work expressed,
     "for [Woolf], as for most other women writers, both [Milton] and the creatures of his imagination constitute the misogynistic essence of what Gertrude Stein called 'patriarchal poetry.'"
    While this reaction towards Milton is extraordinarily common among most critics, it is also helpful to realize where Milton is coming from. 64 years before the first publication of Paradise Lost, England mourned the loss of their Protestant, female ruler. The social and ideological implications of her rule on the English mind, more specifically on Milton's, raise so many questions. For example, did Milton view women as fit to rule on their own or did he see Elizabeth as a product of her male counselor? Did he sympathize with Elizabeth as a Protestant or was he a critic of her as a dictator?

    Hand in Hand, Yet Free

    This is likely going to be a quick post (though for some reason that never really works out). I just wanted to highlight a single line from Book IX of Paradise Lost, because I think it is one of the truest I've read about relationships and people to date. Adam and Eve are talking about whether they should split up so that they can get more done, and Adam is pretty opposed to it as a whole, but he says something that I think every husband and wife probably needs to learn to say and teaches us an important lesson about marriage:
    Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more (372)
    Adam pretty much called what was going to happen, and maybe we think he was a little bit unwise for not being more insistent with Eve, but I think he stumbled on a profound truth in realizing that were he to compel Eve or exercise any unrighteous dominion over her, it would compromise their relationship and make her more distant than if she were to simply go to a different part of the garden. Though a relationship has as its end goal the complete union of two beings, Adam recognizes that though a big part of that union is physical in nature, more important is their mutual respect and their willing heart--their unsolicited love.

    One of my dear friends, who is now close to seventy years old, said the most important thing that he learned in marriage was the phrase, "You're probably right." The reality is that throughout this earthly life, marriages are going to be full of conflicting opinions and differing ways of doing things, but in the end, it's not going to matter so much who was wrong or right about one matter or another. Rather, God will look upon us and see how we have chosen to grow together through kindness and longsuffering and patience and actively being peacemakers. And I think that in the end, despite the falls that we will have made (together), we'll be better off for it all...

    Eve and Delilah

              What is with these ladies?
              Really though...shall we take a look at Delilah's twisted logic?        
              We shall:

    The "Look, it was my fault for being weak..."
    "It was a weakness in me, but incident to all our sex, curiosity, inquisitive, importune of secrets, then with like infirmity to publish them, both common female faults:" (777)

    "But you probably should have expected that in the first place..."
    "Nor shoulds't thou have trusted that to woman's frailty:" (783)

    "I was just scared you would leave..."
    "I saw thee mutable of fancy, feared lest one day thou wouldst leave me." (794)

    "So your imprisonment is obviously ideal..."
    "Here I should still enjoy thee day and night mine and love's prisoner," (807)

    "Besides, I'm a hero! How cool is that?"
    "How honorable, how glorious to entrap a common enemy, who had destroyed such numbers of our nation." (857)

    "I mean, how could I say no?"
    "What had I to oppose against such powerful arguments?" (862)

              Delilah has--ONE--the gall to visit Samson while he's a prisoner--TWO--claim that it was her inherent weakness and ladyness that couldn't help but hurt him, and--THREE--take it all back once she realizes Samson is still doesn't want to be with her. Who can really blame him? Wasn't this at least offense number three or four against him?

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Two men, justifying the ways of God to man

    "The grassy clods now calved, now half appeared
    The tawny lion, pawing to get free
    His hinder parts, then springs as broke from bonds,
    And rampant shakes his brinded main...

    "...the swift stag from under ground 
    Bore up his branching head: scarce from his mold
    Behemoth biggest born of earth upheaved
    His vastness"

    (excerpts from "Paradise Lost," Location 18139).

    The images of the creatures being born from the "womb" of the earth reminded me so much of the scene from C.S. Lewis's "The Magician's Nephew" as the land of Narnia is being created and Aslan is bringing into being the animals.

    After this the comparisons and similarities started popping out at me. So I read a bio on C.S. Lewis (thank you Wikipedia) and connections seemed to start flying all over the place!

    So I made this. Most of them aren't direct comparisons. Just general thoughts that occurred to me as I looked them up.

    I promise I didn't put a filter on it...even though it looks like I did;] Click to enlarge.


    Will C.S. Lewis be included as a Major Authors course option in another couple hundred years or so?

    Milton and Galileo

    In Book 8 of Paradise Lost, Raphael gives Adam what seems to be a pretty uninformed explanation of the workings of celestial bodies. He finally tells Adam to "solicit not [his] thoughts with matters hid," but to instead "leave them to God above."

    Up to this point in the poem, Milton hasn't seemed to have any problems being very direct on sensitive issues of doctrine. Why, then, does he hesitate to make a clear statement on the validity of geocentrism?



    Celebration and Life, The Beauty of The Creation

    While reading books 7 and 8, I was just blown away by the beautiful imagery and personification that Milton uses to bring the Creation to life (pun intended). Something I really noticed was the active role that all the elements of creation played, such as the earth, and the choirs of angels. I particularly like the way Milton personified the sun, the moon and the earth. It was interesting because they obeyed and responded to the words of God. For example, when God wishes to create living things on the earth he commands and the earth "obeyed and straight / op'ning her fertile womb teemed at a birth / innumerous living creatures, perfect forms." It was interesting to see how these elements worked with and obeyed God to create living creatures. 

    Something else that interested me was the exultant celebration of the angels as God and Christ are creating light and dark, sun and moon, earth and water, etc. For some reason, I always pictured the Creation as just God and Christ, working by themselves in an almost solemn affair. But according to Milton, the angels are looking on and singing "with joy and shout / the hollow universal orb they filled / and touched their golden harps, and hymning praised / God and his works; Creator him they sung." In a strange way, Milton portrays the Creation as some sort of spectator event. It's a time for celebration and singing and music and dancing. It's a little different from what I'm used to seeing with the Creation. 

    However, when I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Why shouldn't the angels be rejoicing? Why shouldn't they be singing praises to God and playing music and dancing? After all, God and Christ are creating the universe and the earth from Chaos, which is a beautiful and remarkable feat. It's the beginning of the Plan of Salvation for the children of God. I feel that we sometimes don't give as much thought to the Creation as we should. When we really stop and contemplate it, the Creation truly is an incredibly mind-blowing event. Everything we see now and everything we are is a direct result of that great Creation. It's wonderful to think about, and I guess that's what Milton was trying to portray; the wondrous magnitude of an event that tends to be overlooked by us all. 

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    There may be such a thing as a stupid question...?

              This post is going to be kind of broken up and mostly filled with inquiries that I would love to be answered by you, my beloved classmates.

              First of all (again, all these might be pretty stupid questions) but at the beginning of every book of Paradise Lost, there's that little explanation that explains what that section is about, right? Why is the heading "The Argument" before every single one? 
              Second, Adam is given the commandment by God to "be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth." Buuuut I am confused because I thought that child-bearing was only possible after the fall...when they became mortal. So did God already anticipate the fall that early and kind of spoil the ending for readers?

    Cuckoldry and Gender Roles in Milton's Day


    Saturday, October 19, 2013

    What You See is What You Get

    GET: verb \ˈget, ÷ˈgit\  to find out by calculation <get the answer to a problem>


    When looking at these pictures is it more important to know what you're seeing or how you see it?



    This distinction is a key theme in Milton's "Areopagitica" as well as his beloved Paradise Lost. Milton argues the point that it is the mind or soul that is good or bad, not the environment or knowledge in and of itself. We hear things in Paradise Lost like
    “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” 
    We see examples like Satan disobeying and being thrust to hell juxtaposed with Adam and Eve disobeying and, though fallen, are given a way to have "Paradise Regained."


    Milton's own perspective was heavily influenced by the Bible. In his "Areopagitica," he often quotes biblical passages like Titus 1:15,"To the pure, all things are pure." His religious belief in purity of self over purity of environment led him to speak out for liberty in press and in government.William Haller, speaking of Milton said, "When other men argued for liberty, it was always a liberty with some kind of limitation . . . When Milton spoke, it was to clarion forth a liberty pure, absolute, entire."

    With this perspective on liberty pure, however, comes a kind of frightening application. It means that perhaps no information is inherently bad. It means that, in terms of media at the very least, anything goes.

    Paradise Lost: The Video Game

    This is going to be a quick post. As you might have deduced from the intro screen to the right, I found an old Amiga game of Paradise Lost, and I wanted to share it. I haven't had much of a chance to play it yet, but I watched the intro in all of its glory, so I decided to screencast a portion of it below (I had to speed up portions because they insisted on 25 seconds of "But then..." and 20 or so seconds of frolicking animals). You can find info and screenshots here and the game itself and the Amiga emulator for free here.
    video



    Friday, October 18, 2013

    The Muse Urania and the Holy Spirit


    Milton begins Book VII with a petition to Urania, one of the nine muses of ancient Greek mythology.  Specifically, she is the patron of astronomy and so is often seen holding a globe or crowned with stars.  She is also often connected with the goddess Aphrodite.  I wanted to do a little research on Urania seeing as how Milton petitions her specifically by name, though he adds the disclaimer "The meaning, not the name I call..." (l. 5).  The footnote to that line clarifies it a little by saying that "Urania" means "heavenly one" in Latin.  Milton being the consummate Humanist probably couldn't help but include this reference to the Classics as he begins a story that involves the creation of the heavens, but I did a little more research and ran across an interesting article written on this exact topic.  The authors posit an interesting theory about Urania and what she represents in Milton's universe.  The article by Stevie Davies and William B. Hunter titled "Milton's Urania: 'The Meaning, Not the Name I Call'" makes the argument that Urania is meant to represent the Holy Ghost, and that since the invocation of this muse is the third of three (the previous two being first in Book I and then in Book III) the three invocations are meant to be invocations to the Trinity.  Essentially, Milton is not invoking a single muse or spirit in these various petitions, but rather he is invoking the aid of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

    I'd like to briefly go over some of the authors' arguments that I found most intriguing.  The full article can be accessed on JSTOR here.

    Knowledge: Boon or Bane of Mankind?

    The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo 
    Creative Commons
    Carmen made a really interesting post that touched on the idea of ignorance and knowledge and how the two go together toward our happiness or misery. I wanted to expand on this briefly with some quotes from this weekend's readings of Books 7 and 8 of Milton's Paradise Lost. I'll start I guess with a couple of quotes:
    Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid,
    Leave them to God above, him serve and fear
    . . .                                        joy thou
    In what he gives to thee, this Paradise
    And thy fair Eve; heav'n is for thee too high
    To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
    Think only what concerns thee and thy being;
    Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
    Live, in what state, condition or degree,
    Contented that thus far hath been revealed
    Not of Earth only but of highest Heav'n. (167-68, 170-77)

    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Grafted Thought

    I wrote a post back in January for one of my own blogs that happened to cover the same interpretation of Jacob 5 that Dr. Burton voiced in class. As it clearly connects with Milton's Areopagetica, I've refined my thoughts on this since then, but reposted it unedited below so you can see how I encountered it. Feel free to drop by shipsofhagoth.com for more like this.



    In David Brooks’ The Social Animal, he cites Benjamin Bloom as saying, “the effect of [the] first phase of learning seemed to be to get the learner involved, captivated, hooked and to get the learner to need and want more information and expertise,” and explains that this first phase doesn’t have to be particularly brilliant. When I read that today, I imagined neurological pathways connecting and growing like roots, limbs and twigs, and I imagined these microscopic branches being pruned and grafted. Being a Mormon, I understandably thought of the allegory of the olive trees in the Book of Mormon as this short narrative is the longest work on husbandry I’ve ever read.

    One thing lead to another, and I found myself thinking of how an allegory signifying and prophesying about the diaspora and the cycles of dispensation and apostasy–penned by an almost forgotten Israelite prophet–might relate to the seven assumptions I penned for the Ships of Hagoth “About” page. I suspect there are several possible connections, but the seventh assumption cried out first for grafting:

    Analysis based on the spiritual and often unconscious roots of a creative work does not render either the conscious intent or other unconscious drives–as described by Marx, Jung, Freud, Foucault, etc.–as invalid or inconsequential, but rather situates those motives within a holistic, eternal context.

    When I turned to the allegory with this in mind, the following verses stood out:

    Wherefore, let us take of the branches of these which I have planted in the nethermost parts of my vineyard, and let us graft them into the tree from whence they came; and let us pluck from the tree those branches whose fruit is most bitter, and graft in the natural branches of the tree in the stead thereof.

    And this will I do that the tree may not perish, that, perhaps, I may preserve unto myself the roots thereof for mine own purpose.

    And, behold, the roots of the natural branches of the tree which I planted whithersoever I would are yet alive; wherefore, that I may preserve them also for mine own purpose, I will take of the branches of this tree, and I will graft them in unto them. Yea, I will graft in unto them the branches of their mother tree, that I may preserve the roots also unto mine own self, that when they shall be sufficiently strong perhaps they may bring forth good fruit unto me, and I may yet have glory in the fruit of my vineyard.

    And it came to pass that they took from the natural tree which had become wild, and grafted in unto the natural trees, which also had become wild.

    And they also took of the natural trees which had become wild, and grafted into their mother tree.

    And the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Pluck not the wild branches from the trees, save it be those which are most bitter; and in them ye shall graft according to that which I have said.

    And we will nourish again the trees of the vineyard, and we will trim up the branches thereof; and we will pluck from the trees those branches which are ripened, that must perish, and cast them into the fire.

    And this I do that, perhaps, the roots thereof may take strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches, that the good may overcome the evil.

    There are certainly philosophical fruits of Marx, Jung, Freud, Foucault and the rest that I find extremely bitter and wild. But as Brooks, Bloom and Jacob point out, divine learning comes line upon line, precept upon precept. My initial reaction to some branches of traditional literary theory was that they were fit to be burned, but I’ve since concluded they may yet bear tame, sweet fruit once grafted into the mother tree God planted in the Garden of Eden.

    Visit the Applied Theory category page to taste the fruits of my amateur theoretical grafting. Thornfield, the Lone and Dreary Waste andRomancing the Apostasy are two of my favorites so far.