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Opening comments on Paradise Lost 
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Milton of course was a puritan, a close ally of Oliver Cromwell and the iconoclasts. As such, his great cosmology of Paradise Lost provides a mythic narrative storyline for themes which were dear to the hearts of the American pilgrims on the Mayflower. I firmly believe that a nation retains at its core the ideas which gave impetus to its foundation. Therefore the puritan ideas of holiness and providence have a hold on the American psyche, and a depth of emotional rejection by those at the receiving end of puritanical hypocrisy. Both sides of this American identity can be hard for outsiders and insiders to see. I wonder if we can find in Milton some clue to the fervour and nature of American religiosity?


Robert, I agree that fundamental themes at the foundation guide development, but as can be seen by looking at the back of the $1 bill, Miltonic depth has a place too, though often overlooked or denied. American Transcendentalism (Walden) is an expression of this deeper side.

Tom



Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:49 am
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Thomas Hood wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Milton of course was a puritan, a close ally of Oliver Cromwell and the iconoclasts.


Robert, Milton outgrew the legalism of the Puritans, Cromwell, and the iconoclasts.
Yet Milton was in a way the ultimate iconoclast - his propaganda book Eikonoklastes was written in his capacity as ideator for Cromwell. This smashing of images picks up the puritan reading that the Mosaic commandment not to make graven images has been broken by the aesthetic focus of the roman church. It is then ironic that Paradise Lost lacked wide readership until an illustrated version was published.



Sun Jan 18, 2009 5:18 pm
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So would America be seen by Milton as the Paradise alluded to in the epic poems title, or is it more a theological based idea than an earthly territory, or a mixture? Did not the great epics he compares his work to often blur the distinction between this world and an alternative universe of the gods??

:book:



Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:09 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Yet Milton was in a way the ultimate iconoclast - his propaganda book Eikonoklastes was written in his capacity as ideator for Cromwell. This smashing of images picks up the puritan reading that the Mosaic commandment not to make graven images has been broken by the aesthetic focus of the roman church.


The Eikon in Eikonoklastes was Charles I. Eikonoklastes was written at government direction to justify Charles's execution and was not (I think) meant to justify vandalizing churches, and it may not represent Milton's thinking at that time.

Eikonoklastes was written in 1649, the first version of Paradise Lost completed in 1667. Milton had had plenty of time and experience to change his mind about many things, and apparently did.

Tom

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eikonoklastes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_lost



Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:40 pm
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Grim wrote:
So would America be seen by Milton as the Paradise alluded to in the epic poems title, . . .


I think Milton would have opposed the illiberal Puritan theocracy in New England.

Tom



Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:55 pm
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Grim wrote:
So would America be seen by Milton as the Paradise alluded to in the epic poems title, or is it more a theological based idea than an earthly territory, or a mixture? Did not the great epics he compares his work to often blur the distinction between this world and an alternative universe of the gods?? :book:

All this talk means I will just have to get right into Paradise Lost to help work out the answer. The naming of the American colony of Virginia followed the assessment by the invaders that it was a virgin land, seemingly unsullied by plough and sword. There are a number of stories of the idyllic ancient paradise, from the Bible itself with the Garden of Eden, Hesiod's idea of the Golden Age, Rousseau's tale of the noble savage, Marx's idea of primitive communism, feminist goddess religion, etc etc. A common thread views non-European cultures as innocent and pure, losing their naivete by conquest. Marx and the anarchists saw customary land tenure, especially in the New World, as a mark of a more paradisiacal world, hence our modern term 'tropical paradise'. On this narrative, the rise of the modern doctrine of property, associated with settled agriculture of the fertile crescent from neolithic bronze times, was the harbinger of humanity's fall from divine grace into the state of corruption. These myths are too simplistic to provide a full moral compass, but they remain important in answering the question of the source of modern alienation and suffering. How Milton assessed this cosmic problem of salvation/atonement is really interesting, considering that it is likely that he thought many things to be good which people would now consider bad, and that modern thought is utterly conflicted regarding the merits of capitalist virtues. The fact that in 1670 Milton could promulgate a geocentric cosmology is itself grounds for rather heavy doubt, considering that he had personally discussed cosmology with Galileo during his travels in Italy.



Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:24 pm
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Wow, you seem to feel that Milton had the ability to encapsulate all that into his poetry? I don't doubt you for a minute I just wonder what the Paradise would have ment to him. Is he saying that Christian civilization can never find it, and in this sense it has been lost? What relation do his words have to Kipling's notion of the White Man's Burden where seemingly idylic yet uncivilized people must be brought up the the Christian (white) man's level? You seem to suggest some connection. Milton would oppose higher learning and civilization as that has been our seperation from natural order and somehow this has theological significance? Perhaps I am reading you wrong.

:book:



Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:39 pm
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The epic theme of fall and redemption is the central myth of western civilization. Milton has a specific take on this myth which he seeks to encapsulate in Paradise Lost, but of course he predated Rousseau, Marx and modern feminism, and his sense of the meaning of divinity was constrained by medieval puritan assumptions. The myth is that people were originally perfect, but since the arrival of sin we have lived in a fallen state, alienated from God, and will recover our divine identity in a future millennium, identified by Christianity with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. According to Paul, Adam brought sin into the world as the first man, so in the first paradise the sinless state was shared only by Adam and Eve, before they had children. Of course historically this is rubbish, but it is very influential rubbish, touching the nerves of dominant ideas of identity, purpose and meaning. As Malachi said, there is gold among the dross. Milton shared the racist assumptions of imperialism whereby the missionary task of spreading the gospel to the heathen was enjoined as a way to save souls from hellish damnation, but Kipling advanced this to a moral justification for conquest which I suspect Milton had not considered. On higher learning, Milton's ethos was formed by the Calvinist movement which valued study as a way to understand the divine message of the Bible, so, following Augustine, civilisation is a way to combat mundane corruption and build the city of God. All these themes are very worth examining to deconstruct and rebuild a narrative of meaning and purpose for human existence.



Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:40 am
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The American Heavy Metal band Symphony X released an album completely inspired by Milton's poem appropriately titled Paradise Lost.



Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:57 am
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I was actually surprised when looking through my library to find one of my old college text books that had Paradise Lost contain within it. All 12 books. You can't even believe how excited I was.

I was reading the preface to this epic and the editor gave some real insight that I must have forgotten when I first read the poem over ten years ago. He said that Milton shows us a cycle of independent thought. A cause and effect of independence. For instance, Lucifer's desire to be free of the "mainstay angelic" belief. Thus getting him exiled from heaven. Then we see it with Adam and Eve in their lust of freedom of choice causing them to be exiled from Eden. Of course, this is over simplying the poem but I don't want to give the best bits away. Makes me wish I hadn't thrown my notes away from this class to see what the discussion was about at the time of me first reading it. Darn my desire not to be a packrat! :wall:
I also wanted to point out that there is a British heavy metal band named Paradise Lost after this epic. I am quite excited about reading this work again. Look forward to the discussions.


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Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:45 pm
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For those like me who find Milton's arcane prose tough going at times, an excellent summary and commentary is available at http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/Lit ... d-140.html



Mon Jan 19, 2009 11:18 pm
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I would be interested to know why people chose Paradise Lost. Booktalk promotes a rational empirical worldview, but Milton is a Yecist (Young Earth Creationist) and a rather extreme patriarchalist. It could be argued that discussing his false ideas gives air to an obsolete worldview which has plenty of opportunity elsewhere and deserves consignment to the dustbin. I actually welcome the chance to finally read Milton, as Paradise Lost has sat on my shelf unread for years, and it provides the opportunity to identify the good and bad cultural meanings in his influential ideas.

Coming across themes from ACDC (Highway to Hell) and Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven) let alone the wealth of 19th century resonances with Frankenstein, Prometheus, &c, is great as a way to help understand Anglo cultural identity.

My view is that the cosmology of the fall makes good sense, as long as it is reconfigured in a scientific way. Milton gives the seed of an epic vision, but fails to deliver because of the strength of his false and ignorant assumptions. The basic problem I see in Milton is that he tries to invent an epic tale from within the depths of a lost culture, meaning a culture that had seriously lost contact with its divine origins. He therefore provides howling errors, such as the concept of heaven and hell as places, Yecism, and the silly idea that equates eternal life with immortality. Unlike real epics such as the Kalevala and the Iliad, where the myths emerge from an ancient cosmic identity, Milton makes it up as modern fiction, but that is the best the bruised brain of Britain can hope for.

One interesting analogy with the fall of Satan is the planet Venus, also known as Lucifer. Venus is now high in the evening sky, but will soon appear to plummet, becoming invisible by March. This apparent fall mirrors the myth of the fall of Satan discussed in Paradise Lost. Another obscure but scientifically correct analogy is that the 13:8 ratio between the years of Venus and Earth establishes a cosmic pentagram which suggests a connection with magical symbols. My point in raising this is that there are physical realities which underpin the metaphorical ideas in Paradise Lost, and there is potential to provide a scientific deconstruction of the imaginary landscape of the epic.



Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:43 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
I would be interested to know why people chose Paradise Lost. Booktalk promotes a rational empirical worldview, but Milton is a Yecist (Young Earth Creationist) and a rather extreme patriarchalist. It could be argued that discussing his false ideas gives air to an obsolete worldview which has plenty of opportunity elsewhere and deserves consignment to the dustbin. I actually welcome the chance to finally read Milton, as Paradise Lost has sat on my shelf unread for years, and it provides the opportunity to identify the good and bad cultural meanings in his influential ideas.


It was not so much for the ideas as the art that DWill and I thought to suggest a discussion of Paradise Lost -- remember it is a poem and we've been discussing all manner of poetry; regardless of theme or poet. I am personally interested in reading it because I never had, and it is such a frequently referenced piece of literature.



Last edited by Saffron on Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:10 am, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:53 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
For those like me who find Milton's arcane prose tough going at times, an excellent summary and commentary is available at http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/Lit ... d-140.html


My Really Simple Summary of Paradise Lost:

1. The war in heaven. Satan rallies the fallen angels in hell.

2. In council, the fallen angels hear a rumor of a new creation. Satan volunteers to spy out this new place, exits the Gates of Hell, and is directed by Chaos.

3. As Satan flies toward the world, God foresees man's fall, and the Son offers himself for redemption. Satan alights on the outermost orb, claims to desire to behold the new creation, and is advised by Uriel, the unsuspecting angel of the orb, on how to view Paradise.

4. Satan enters Paradise, takes the form of a cormorant, learns of the forbidden fruit, and plans to use it to seduce Adam and Eve. Gabriel, the guard of Paradise, is warned that an evil spirit has entered Paradise. Satan found whispering in Eve's ear as she sleeps, and is expelled.

5. Eve's troublesome dream. Raphael sent to earth to warn Adam. The story of Abdiel's loyalty and Satan's resentment of the Son.

6. Raphael relates the war between the angels. Satan and his angels fall from heaven.

7. Raphael relates the creation of another world and other creatures. The Son and angels create the world.

8. Raphael warns Adam against the danger of knowledge.

9. Satan's seduction of Eve and Adam's complicity.

10. Hell linked to earth. Adam consoles Eve.

11. Michael announces to Adam the loss of Paradise. Summarizies human history up to the flood.

12. Michael narrates human history after the flood. Adam and Eve leave Paradise.



Last edited by Thomas Hood on Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:17 am, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:07 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
I would be interested to know why people chose Paradise Lost. Booktalk promotes a rational empirical worldview, but Milton is a Yecist (Young Earth Creationist) and a rather extreme patriarchalist.


Maybe Milton loved the story but didn't believe it.



Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:12 am
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