I think knowledge is a bit of a problem in Paradise Lost. I mean, we know it is – eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil resulted in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the general downfall of all humanity. Y’know, casual. What interests me, however, is that we are never told the exact nature of the this forbidden knowledge. Some have postulated that the fruit was actually carnal knowledge. Evidence for this can be found in the lust that consumed Adam and Eve after they ate from it. However, we know for a fact (vis a vis the poem) that the first two humans had sex before eating from the tree. We know, thanks to Raphael, that even angels have sex. So what exactly was so carnal, so forbidden, about the knowledge of the tree? We know that Adam and Eve became embarrassed and ashamed of their nakedness after eating from the tree, and that they began to find fault with each other. Maybe this knowledge is simply an awareness of their bodies and their faults. Leonard’s essay discusses the difference in knowledge between Adam and Satan, especially each individual’s questions about creation. He writes: “The purity of Adam’s prelapsarian request emerges when we compare it with Satan’s very different way of asking about Creation” (138), which establishes a distinction between the two entities and extrapolates based on their personalities from there. Leonard continues by asserting that Adam’s form of inquiry is acceptable because he does not question God’s will, he only questions what currently exists around him. Satan, on the other hand, directly questions and, ultimately, defies God. The fruit, then, might be a stand in for this very questioning or, if we take this claim a step further, a need to rebel. Could it be that the knowledge that was so forbidden to Adam and Eve was really the will, the ability to question God? This would certainly support a reading of Milton’s God as tyrannical; this lends even more credence to the claim that Satan can be read as the hero of Paradise Lost. He did, after all, give humans the ability to question. Were Adam and Even merely mindless robots before the fall?
Going into the archives was a fascinating experience, particularly for Mike and I while we examined a classic copy of Milton’s most famous work, Paradise Lost. The first thing one notices about the book / epic poem is how physically impressive it is. Picking it up, I would estimate it weighs somewhere between a whopping 5-7 lbs. Also, at only 300-350 pages in there, it was a very dense piece. Each page contains gilt edges, a gold lining on the top, bottom, and side of each page. The binding, composed of raised bands, also had gold tooling (decorative application of golden leaves) on the sides. On the inside, the front and back covers contained a unique pattern of marbling that is slightly different in each publication. The cover page is labeled with a special publisher’s device, marking the insignia of the publishing company. Throughout the epic, there are 50 photos that coincide with the text. One aspect that Mike and I found fascinating was that on each of the photos, there were two signatures. The bottom left of each photo possessed the signature of Gustave Doré, the known artist of each. After some research, we concluded that the other name, placed in the bottom left of each photo, belonged to the person who engraved each of the pictures. Considering how big and aesthetically impressive this copy of Paradise Lost is, we concluded that it probably sat in an aristocrat’s library for display.
A significant agent in the creation of the ‘public sphere’ was the introduction of printing and pamphlet culture. This was ultimately due to the wealth of information EVERYONE could engage in starting in 1640’s, voices once invisible finally able to be heard, ultimately the public against that of the parliament, often materializing in politcal and religious movements, and people able to explore the self in relation to God with the decreased reliance on scripture. Challenging the authority with intimate knowledge and intellectual apparatus now public, it created a chance for false truths, suspicions and a great chance for anxiety. Nonetheless, it supported/advanced the idea that readership is for everyone. Milton, regardless of all that came from printing, good or bad, was interested in truth. People who didn’t want this honesty didn’t win, such as the Parliament, as the doors were already opened.Tying together polemic, scolorship, and philosophical reflection, and observing the boundaries of debate, Milton focused on reason attached to eloquent arguments, rather than reserved speech. Recognizing that the ‘public sphere’ was now a prominent part of culture, he rode along the theme of honesty and only spoke the truth, sometimes harsh truth. However, it was hard for many people to believe Milton as he was ingenuine in his arguments with the rhetorical flair. This presented a conflict. Milton adamently believed that the entire public should read and benefit from his works, as he believed everybody equally capable as human beings, but with the level of his writing, super-eloquent and satirical, there was an expectency that all his readers were as ‘learned’ as he–with the prose of brilliant rhythm, elaborate and dense rhetrorical devices, and sinewy metaphors that only the highly educated could bear meaning from. Despite the lack of audience approval, he stuck with his belief that the best means of persuasion was reason mixed with ‘coersive eloquence.’ There were differing views on honesty at the time in this new ‘public sphere,’ as many people believed there was no such text with the wholehearted truth, and that one can come to more truth by seeing falsehood. Ultimately, the truth stirring with lie in this new public sphere, mostly due to pamphlet culture, allowed for a form of healthy dialogue with the voice and opinion from people looking outside of what they only once knew in their private lives.
The section at the beginning of Book 2 of “The Reason of Church Government” is just one example of a trend we have seen occur throughout our studies in Milton thus far; a break from the overall focus of the piece where Milton writes about himself and his writing. Although the pamphlet’s title lead me to believe I would be reading about Milton’s opinions on the episcopacy, pages 665-671 mostly cover Milton’s reason behind writing this piece. This interjection, in comparison to other ones we have discussed (for example, his lengthy and somewhat vain self depiction in “The Second Defence”) begins with more modest intentions. In fact, it would seem that the reason Milton chose to include this personal introduction into the next part of the piece is that he wants to assert his modesty and explain his humble intentions. He is not writing to garner fame or attention, but rather because he has a moral and spiritual duty to use the “few talents which God at present had lent [him]” in order to raise awareness about the dangers of the episcopacy. Much of his desire to write this piece is for fear of future regret in leaving this message unsaid. Perhaps the reason Milton felt the need to include all of this material validating his choice to write this piece is related to the opposition that Helgerson writes about in “Self Crowned Laureates.” One thing that makes a Laureate, according to Helgerson, is the sense that “poetry was itself a means of making a contribution to the order and improvement of the state.” Although the piece at hand is prose and not poetry, Milton’s assertion that his writing it was a responsibility rather than a pleasure (for no one wants to be the bearer of bad news.) As we see in this piece, Milton’s prose, as well as his poetry, helps to define him as a Laureate.
Referring to the Cambridge Reading section on “Lycidas” I thought it was very interesting because at first reading the poem I understood that Milton was referring to someone that he cared about by stating the line ” And as he passes turn, And bid fair peace be to my stable shroud” for the use of his diction it allowed me to know that someone has properly died. However reading the poem straight threw at first I did not catch the Milton actually was refering to King Edward as the other shepherd like himself. What did stood out to me was that even if I didn’t notice that Milton was talking about King Edward I knew this person he was writing about had to be very important to him. Milton stating in lines 25-30 ” Together both, ere the high Lawns appear’d under the opening eyelids of the morn, we drove afield and both together heard. What time the Gray-fly winds her sultry horn, Batt’ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night, Oft till Star that rose, at Ev ning, bright” its as if the quote stood there to exhibit a friendship and a type of comparision between Milton and the other individual. Within the Cambridge I learned that King Edward and Milton where both attending the Cambridge University for their studies. The Cambridge book also expressed how it was King Edward who in which Milton has just lost as a companion, and he was left alone without the friend he had. Another thing that was interesting to me was the fact that the poem didn’t sound sad as if it was someone who had just lost his friend which you would think that Milton as the poet would stress his grief for the lost of his friend in the poem; by having the organist playing the funeral march break down in tears however the poem doesn’t express any grief. What Also caught my attention was that Evans expressed that the poem was about Milton’s own” anxieties concering the possibility of his own premature death”. That Milton’s personal anxieties was about his future direction of his own life which had me referred back to the sonnet VII: HOW SOON HATH TIME on pg.76 to lines 1-20 was referring to him wanting to do something great with his life especially when he was already 23 years old. Another thing that hit me was in the poem how Milton kept referring to sexual and political examples, and that made me start dwelling on his life. I began to think back to the background information I learned about his poem sonnet XXIII” Methought I saw my late Espoused Saint” for I examined his relationship with his first wife Mary Powell Milton who had died May/ 2/1652 three days after she gave birth to their daughter. For during the course of their relationship Mary had left Milton due to her wealthy family and so he wrote out a Doctrine and a Discipline of Divorce and even thou it was never carried out and Mary eventually did return back to Milton it still expressed politics within his life time. Milton’s poem’s to me seem to always incorporate something about his life and it’s hard not to always exclude what you know about a poet and just read the poems as it is written. However definitely knowing Miltons life helps me to understand his poems a little better!
Students will blog here once per week in a post of around 250 words on the day’s reading by 11 p. m. the night before class. You can watch The Daily Show as a reward for a job well done. Students should initiate topics as well as respond to others’ posts. Think about writing about the reading in terms of previous reading of primary texts (intertextuality); in relationship to secondary reading (articles and The Cambridge Companion); write about parts of the reading you don’t understand or that you find inconsistent; respond to others’ posts–disagreeing, agreeing with additional thoughts, recasting; interpret difficult selections from the reading and deepen their insights; or write about other aspects of the texts that you find intellectually stimulating. In other words, write thoughtful, considered posts. Feel free to post images, videos, music, and anything that will be of interest that pertains to the subject of the day. I will read the blog daily, use it to shape class discussion, and weigh in from time to time. The blog is required reading for the class.
I will grade the posts. Here is the rubric I will use, created by Mark Sample:
4 Exceptional. The blog post is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. The post demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The entry reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.
3 Satisfactory. The blog post is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The post reflects moderate engagement with the topic.
2 Underdeveloped. The blog post is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The post reflects passing engagement with the topic.
1 Limited. The blog post is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of student engagement with the topic.
0 No Credit. The blog post is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentences.