International Milton Symposium - IMS12

17-21 June 2019, Palais Universitaire, Strasbourg

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Tuesday 18 June 2019

08h30-09h45: Panel sessions 3

(3a) The Inexpressible and the Invisible in Paradise Lost - Chair: Joshua Scodel (Room Pasteur)

David Ainsworth (Associate Professor, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA): “Transubstantiated Music: Expressing the Inexpressible in Paradise Lost

Focusing on Book 3 of Paradise Lost, this paper argues that Milton uses music to express the inexpressible, figuring forth both the Holy Spirit and God himself through harmonious song. By tracing Milton’s language when the angels sing in Heaven to praise Father and Son for their plan to redeem humanity, I suggest that Milton replaces the Eucharist with a different kind of transubstantiation, from Father and Son, to music and poetry, and thus to his readers through his poem. I also suggest that the Son becomes the central figure of Paradise Lost in Book 3, the vehicle through which the ineffable Father can be made expressible. I also briefly consider Adam and Eve’s prelapsarian song to suggest how both they and Milton himself can tune their music to the divine harmony in order to connect with God through a procedure of poetic representation.

Laïla Ghermani (Associate Professor, Université Paris Nanterre, France): “John Milton’s Complex Poetics of the Invisible: Enargeia, Theology of Images and the Representation of the Son of God in Paradise Lost

As a response to S. B. Dobranski’s recent study on Milton’s visual imagination, this paper addresses the complex relationships between Milton’s poetic representation of the Son and his antitrinitarianism through the practice of enargeia in Paradise Lost and the definition of God’s image in De Doctrina Christiana.

Contrary to Dobranski who emphasizes the contradiction between Milton’s materialism and the “indistinct” portrayal of the Son in Paradise Lost, I argue that Milton’s use of enargeia as a mode of visual representation typical of Renaissance epics should rather be associated with his antitrinitarian definition of the Son as the Word and visible “image” of God before the time of Incarnation.

Such a definition not only matches the lexical field of language and visual imagery that characterises the Son in the epic but it also fits with the Son’s status as both Word and bright expression of the Father. As the Son enacts his own verbal and imaginal nature, he becomes the perfect model of rhetorical enargeia for the poet and he also becomes the highest mimesis of God’s glory on the ontological scale of images displayed by the poem. Ultimately, he fulfils the etymological Homeric meaning of enargeia, namely, the visible manifestation of an invisible god, characterised by dazzling light.

What is crucial here, is that Milton’s logic deconstruction of the Trinity modifies the concept of divine image, transforming it into a necessarily visible and bodily entity. He thus disengages from the iconoclastic rejection of material representations of the divine but preserves the spiritual dimension of God’s image. Far from being a defective picture, the Son in Paradise Lost is indeed the utmost visual and spiritual representation the unorthodox Protestant poet can create.

(3b) Samson Agonistes (I) - Chair: Karen Clausen-Brown (Room 113)

Seth Herbst (Assistant Professor of English, US Military Academy, West Point): “Samson Agonistes as Pastoral Elegy”

Recent controversy over the ethical ambiguities of Samson Agonistes has diverted critical attention from one of the play’s most striking features: its verse form. In his headnote, Milton himself declares that his irregular verse, in which shorter lines periodically interrupt the normative pentameter, is simply part of his imitation of Greek tragedy. I want to suggest, however, that this metric paradigm is better understood as a long-meditated innovation: Samson’s curtal lines are a late instantiation of a technique Milton first developed in “Lycidas”— the irregular counterpointing of trimeter lines against a baseline pentameter. By returning to this unusual metric paradigm, Milton draws on the formal expressiveness he had devised for funeral elegy: a deliberate formal unbalancing, an unhinging of meter that enacts the subtractions of grief and unexpected foreshortening of the human life span. This distinctive verse form implies more broadly that Samson Agonistes takes on the office of pastoral elegy: Christian care for the Old Testament dead. Understood in these terms, the joint volume of Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes stakes out Milton’s view of the essential relation between New Testament and Old Testament, teaching enlightened Christian readers how to understand the violent lessons of the old law.

Irene Montori (Dr., Non-Stipendiary Early Career Fellow, University of Rome, Sapienza, Italy): “The Sublime Imagery of Samson Agonistes

Samson’s cataclysmic destruction of the Philistine temple has long offered difficulty to Milton scholarship, interpreting Samson’s attack as the result of God’s inward illumination or as the insane revenge of a desperate protagonist. This paper argues for a new reading of Samson’s final act as a performance of sublimity. In this context, the sublime is not a critical term to designate elevated thoughts in a lofty language, nor does it appear as a specific word in Milton’s drama. The sublime emerges in Samson’s destruction as an overpowering phenomenon, a transcendental experience beyond the finite and the possible.

The emergence of the category of the ‘sublime’ in seventeenth century Britain is typically related to the circulation of the Hellenistic tract Peri Hupsous. Innovative work by James I. Porter and Patrick Cheney, however, has demonstrated that the sublime also encompassed a whole range of concepts, images, meanings, and topoi, which did not exclusively originate in the ancient tractate. Drawing on this groundbreaking research in the history and theory of the sublime, this paper aims to reconsider Samson’s experience as an important, yet overlooked, example of early modern sublimity combining the Longinian text with non-Longinian elements and to offer additional evidence to take on a position on Samson’s final attack.

(3c) Milton and Philosophy - Chair: Joshua Scodel (Room 120)

Sanford Budick (Professor of English, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem): “Milton and Radical Intersubjectivity”

In current literary-critical discourse few terms are more variously employed, or more confusing, than “intersubjectivity.” Aside from the common and rather loose usage in which it only means a large or small allusion to another text or author (so-called “intertextuality”), there is a highly problematic legacy of the term in modern philosophy. This has been dramatically in evidence ever since Edmund Husserl’s life-long, failed struggle to present a persuasive account of what intersubjectivity might be or how it might be achieved. Husserl’s attempts principally foundered on his inability to escape a core solipsism in his ideas of subjectivity or the ego. I believe that Milton’s poetry is uniquely rich in structures of an intersubjectivity that is not solipsistic—this despite, and especially because of, the initial position of powerful ego that characterizes his own poetic ego as well as that of his chief protagonists. Getting beyond the solipsistic ego, and entering into a sharing of subjectivity, is the hard work of much of Milton’s greatest poetry. My lecture will offer a definition of a non-solipsistic intersubjectivity—that which philosophers call a “radical intersubjectivity”—and will adduce structures of such intersubjectivity that Milton creates among many of his protagonists and in his own relations to his biblical muse. These structures are very different from those of an Oedipal “anxiety of influence” that Harold Bloom has so vividly described.

Dennis Danielson (Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, Canada): “Milton, Moral Realism, and the Euthyphro Dilemma”

The Euthyphro Dilemma (stated monotheistically) offers this choice: Is what God commands good because he commands it, or does he command what he commands because it is good? If the former, then God’s commands are rendered essentially arbitrary, and he might equally have commanded something we humans would consider evil; if the latter, then God’s omnipotence and sovereignty are seemingly constrained by some force or standard prior to God. Milton tackles the primarily theological core of this problem by opposing the voluntarism of some of his contemporaries ranging from orthodox Calvinists to Thomas Hobbes, and he does so (in both De Doctrina Christiana and Paradise Lost) in order to undergird a coherent defence of God’s justice that does not at the same time undermine divine omnipotence. But I wish to extend discussion of this so-called dilemma (and Milton’s de facto treatment of it) in order to trace its consequences for—and Milton’s potential contribution to—ongoing debates concerning moral philosophy. For at the level of human biology, culture, and society, we may be faced with an analogous dilemma: either contingent, culturally relative, and arbitrary standards that fundamentally paralyze robust moral judgment, or else “ultimate postulates” that threaten to appear dogmatic and independent of both human and divine realities.

(3d) Politics in Paradise Lost - Chair: Ayelet Langer (Room 124)

Alex Garganigo (Associate Professor, Austin College, Sherman, Texas, USA): “Models of Citizenship in Paradise Lost

As globalization, migration, and authoritarianism put new pressure on the concept of the nation-state, the issue of citizenship becomes increasingly urgent. Witness the reconsideration of birthright citizenship in the US. Studies of citizenship have often depended on dichotomies such as rights vs. duties and liberalism vs. republicanism. However, in Milton’s time the liberal/republican split was a work in progress, not an accomplished fact; nor were human rights a universally recognized concept. Given that these binaries map imperfectly onto Milton’s work, I propose a taxonomy of citizenships based on other factors. Two main models of citizenship would have suggested themselves to the author of Paradise Lost: Greek and Roman. I will argue that the poem pits the two against each other—Eve exemplifying the former, Adam the latter.

Victoria Griffon (PhD Student, Université Paris 7 – Diderot, Paris, France): “My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). Milton’s Politics of Heaven in Paradise Lost

Since its publication, readers of Paradise Lost have been struck by the apparent tension between Milton’s firm opposition to monarchy as stated in his political pamphlets such as The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates or Eikonoklastes and the way he chose to rep-resent God and Heaven in the poem. Indeed, the God of Paradise Lost appears as an absolute and omnipotent monarch, reminiscent of the Old Testament God of wrath, and whose unquestioned authority culminates in Book III, with the exaltation of the Son. This arbitrary appointment seems to ratify the idea that Heaven is represented as a hereditary and absolute monarchy, an idea that many critics have felt rather uncomfortable with as it generates a seeming inconsistency in the poem and conflicting politics between Milton’s regicide tracts and his late poetical works, in which Adam and Eve seem to fall victim to Heaven’s seeming authoritarianism.

What I would like to study is how this "tyranny of Heaven" (I,124) has led to conflicting critical responses, and that rather than trying to avoid this issue in the poem as Barbara Lewalski did, stating that "there can be no possible parallel between earthly kings and divine kingship", we should embrace this tension. Indeed, Milton’s project in Paradise Lost was to "justify the ways of God to men" (I, 26) so we cannot just assume the way he portrayed God and the divine monarchy to be completely out of our human grasp. On the contrary, the absolute monarchy of Heaven could even be considered as the condition of the felix culpa and it raises the question of human freedom Milton so passionately fought for.

(3e) Milton's Theology - Chairs: Jason A. Kerr and James Clawson (Room 118)

Grant Horner (Professor of English, Renaissance and Reformation Studies, The Master’s University, Santa Clarita, California, USA): “The Two Johns: Milton and Calvin and Unexpected Intersections”

I approach Milton as one trained in historical theology. It was therefore obvious to me that central to scholarly orthodoxy is Milton’s Remonstrant theological position. This consensus on Milton’s Arminianism, undergirding virtually all contemporary readings, has been ascendant since the Romantics; it is now an unquestioned belief—despite numerous problems such as the fact that Puritans were an explicitly Calvinistic sect deeply opposed to both Catholicism and Arminianism. My argument (distilled from a recently completed book) is radically revisionist: I show that this ‘orthodox’ view is deeply problematic in the context of sixteenth and seventeenth century historical theological documents, a great many of which are composed in complex theological Latin and left unstudied by literary critics. Intense early modern debates about providence, foreknowledge, middle knowledge, predestination, election, reprobation, free will, the ordo salutis, divine decrees, potentia absoluta, potentia ordinata, and many other scholastic theological terms are not generally familiar to literary scholars. Calvin himself uses the image of a labyrinth to describe the workings of God through time and across events. It is dangerously tempting to oversimplify the debates of the period and quite difficult to make necessary distinctions between sects that have only left behind highly polemical traces of their ideological structures.

My argument, ironically, is actually quite simple. Milton’s best known work is Paradise Lost, the purpose of which is made explicit in the proem of Book I: “That to the highth of this great Argument I may assert Eternal Providence, And justifie the wayes of God to men.” A theologian who insists upon the ‘Eternal Providence’ of God, as those two terms were understood in the seventeenth century, has a problem: the existence of evil. Is God unable or unwilling to stop evil? Is he in fact auctor peccatorum—the author of sins? The attempt to work this problem out is called theodicy—a philosophical argument justifying God’s ways despite the existence of evil. Miltonists have long recognized the epic as a theodical poem. It is a commonplace of historical theology scholars that theodical work is necessitated by the hard determinism of Calvinism; however, Arminians do not need to ‘do theodicy’—their system, which privileges human agency over (or at least equal to) ultimate divine sovereignty, is in fact a theodicy itself. No Arminian would ever think to write Paradise Lost—their system has justified their deity. It is only the Calvinist who feels he must “justify the ways of God to men.”

Nicholas Hardy (Fellow, University of Birmingham, G.-B.): "‘Masorites of the letter’? Milton and mid-seventeenth-century biblical criticism"

Literary, intellectual and religious historians have produced detailed studies of the specific pressures that acted on the Reformed Protestant doctrine of Scripture from the 1640s onwards, when Milton was composing his theological works. During this period, English puritan intellectuals like John Owen and Lucy Hutchinson strove to formulate answers to new critiques of the integrity and divine authority of the Bible that had been posed by Roman Catholics, radical sects, heterodox philosophers, and sometimes by figures within the Reformed tradition itself.

The time is now ripe to contextualise Milton’s responses to these developments. What might Milton’s contemporaries have made of his schematic assertions about the biblical text in the De doctrina Christiana, or his other theological writings that touched on such questions? Milton’s works present their author as an independent, godly lay exegete who either bypasses or rises above the new biblical criticism. But Milton’s liberalising programme was only one possible reaction to the predicament in which Reformed scripturalism found itself, and this paper aims to show that it was by no means the most obvious, coherent, or compelling in the eyes of Milton’s co-religionists.

09h45-10h15: Coffee break (Great Hall)

10h15-12h00: Plenary session II by David Loewenstein (Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and the Humanities and Director of Graduate Studies, Penn State, University-Park, Pennsylvania, USA): "Milton and the Struggles of England’s Long Reformation", and Ann B. Coiro (Professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA): "Milton and Charles I: Modern Authorship" (Room Pasteur)

12h00-14h00: Lunch break at "Le 32" - 32, Avenue de la Victoire, Strasbourg

14h00-15h45: Panel sessions 4

(4a) Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley, and James Joyce (CANCELLED)

Renata Del Rio Meints Adail (Independent Researcher, Brazil): “Unexpected Miltonic Sightings: John Milton and James Joyce” (CANCELLED)

This paper will consider the underlying presence of John Milton in James Joyce’s oeuvre, and its imbrications and contributions to a wider meaning to Joyce’s characters.

Milton’s presence embraces several artistic manifestations, with allusions to his words and characters in other authors’ books the most obvious ones, for instance. He appears as a hero in William Blake’s Milton and helps set the archetype for a satanic figure with his humanised portrayal of Satan, which turns out to be more appealing to the public since then. Joyce, dually inspired by Milton and Blake, brings in the satanic strain to help build his main character and alleged alter-ego, Stephen Dedalus; Dedalus is the main character from his 1903 abandoned manuscript Stephen Hero, the Kunstlerroman A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and is joined by Leopold Bloom (Joyce’s older self?) in Ulysses, where he teaches ‘Lycidas’ to his students.

The concept of Presence I apply here is based on (and adapted from) Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht’s idea of presence in literature, wherein language is used to evoke a desired presence of a precursor. My claim is that Milton’s presence in Joyce’s writing does not consist solely in the use of similar words or direct references to the author of Paradise Lost; despite the normal competitive drive, Joyce’s writing and building of characters goes ‘hand in hand’ with his precursor’s, and (surprisingly?) shows traces of unity with Milton.

This essay discusses John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the contemporary film Ex Machina as a coherent group concerning the boundaries of knowledge and the perils of scientific Prometheanism. The development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) must be delimited and contained, if not curtailed or banned, and scientists ought to proceed in a responsible and cautious manner. An obsessive or excessive pursuit of knowledge, usually a human’s, in the direction of equaling God and creating humanoid beings constitutes the essential feature of scientific Prometheanism, which can end in catastrophic destructions. Both Frankenstein and Ex Machina make a pungent critique of an aspect of modernity, i.e. scientific Prometheanism with an exposition of the real dangers posed by AIs to the very existence of humanity and civilization. Milton’s Paradise Lost is also closely connected with the figure of Prometheus (4.714-719); its classical discussion of Prometheanism and explication on the necessity of the bounds of knowledge in Paradise Lost (7.126-128) provide the epistemological framework for Frankenstein and Ex Machina.

Tianhu Hao (Professor and Assistant Dean, Zhejiang University, China): "Whither Goes AI: Paradise Lost, Frankenstein, Ex Machina, and the Boundaries of Knowledge" (MOVED TO 5c)

This essay discusses John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the contemporary film Ex Machina as a coherent group concerning the boundaries of knowledge and the perils of scientific Prometheanism. The development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) must be delimited and contained, if not curtailed or banned, and scientists ought to proceed in a responsible and cautious manner. An obsessive or excessive pursuit of knowledge, usually a human’s, in the direction of equaling God and creating humanoid beings constitutes the essential feature of scientific Prometheanism, which can end in catastrophic destructions. Both Frankenstein and Ex Machina are modern in spirit and make a pungent critique of an aspect of modernity, i.e. scientific Prometheanism with an exposition of the real dangers posed by AIs to the very existence of humanity and civilization. Milton’s classical discussion of Prometheanism and explication on the necessity of the bounds of knowledge in Paradise Lost provide the epistemological framework for Frankenstein and Ex Machina.

Eric Song (Associate Professor of English Literature, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, USA): “Mary Shelley’s Engagement with Paradise Lost (CANCELLED)

This paper revisits Mary Shelley’s engagement with Paradise Lost to detail a crossover between religious poetry and fiction. Paradise Lost elicits skepticism about the truth-value of visual descriptions, but the same skepticism does not apply to speech. Book 4 reminds us that our first view of Adam and Eve is through Satan’s eyes, yet we are not led to question the reporting of Adam and Eve’s words as overheard by Satan. Doubt concerning verbal transmission would undermine Milton’s claim to transmit the words of the first humans, of God, and of the angels—all in the English language. This paper argues that Shelley’s Frankenstein adapts Milton’s strategy for engendering belief in verbal transmission and translation. At the center of the novel, the daemon reports having read Paradise Lost. He could only have done so in translation, as French is the only language he has acquired. Yet this inference hardly registers even as the novel is structured as a series of translations, with Victor Frankenstein rehearsing his story—and the story of the daemon—in English. Regardless of the processes involved, the reader knows that the daemon has genuinely encountered Paradise Lost. Through this narrative of reading, Shelley reshapes Milton’s strategy of inspiring belief into a way of lending credibility to fiction.

(4b) Milton and Difficulty: a Roundtable - Chair: Sarah Knight (Room Pasteur)

Hannah J. Crawforth (Senior Lecturer, King’s College, London, G.-B.), on the difficulty of form:

My remarks will address the vexed issue of Milton’s increasingly free verse forms, with particular emphasis on his late closet drama, Samson Agonistes (1671), which continues to resist efforts to fix its prosody within classical metrical terminology. More broadly, I will explore what Milton seeks to gain by writing formally ‘difficult’ poetry at this late moment in his career. And I will ask what critics’ ongoing difficulties in aligning Milton’s own descriptions of his forms with how his poems have been scanned by readers in the centuries since his death reveal about his investment in the idea of ‘difficulty’ – and ours.

Nicholas Hardy (Fellow, University of Birmingham, G.-B.), on theological difficulty:

Milton can seem like a self-consciously difficult writer from the perspective of modern researchers and pedagogues. However, I would like very briefly to explore some of the ways in which he positioned himself on the ‘easy’ side of contemporary literary and intellectual culture. In his engagement with late humanist érudits and antiquarians, or in his approach to the Bible, Milton often swam against currents of academic specialisation, fragmentation, and technocracy. What motivated this stance, and what were its shorter- and longer-term implications?

Islam Issa (Senior Lecturer, Birmingham City University, G.-B.), on intercultural difficulty:

Drawing on focus groups I have carried out, I will indicate some of the cultural and religious sensitivities shown by university students in Egypt. I will also consider how digital contexts can complicate the reception of Milton's works.

Sarah Knight (Professor of Renaissance Literature, University of Leicester, G.-B.), on the difficulty of translation:

I will introduce two examples: one taken from translating Milton's Prolusiones into English, and a second from how Sonnet 11 has been translated into other European languages. I am interested in the interpretative challenges translators face when working with ambiguously articulated source texts, and especially in the process of linguistic, literary and contextual excavation translators must conduct as they work first to determine meaning and then to convey often contested meanings in the target language.

Discussion questions:

• What difficulties does Milton, in particular, present to the reader, and how do these compare to the kinds of difficulty posed by contemporary poets renowned for their difficulty (such as Geoffrey Hill or J.H. Prynne)? Is Milton more difficult (or perceived to be more difficult) than his early modern contemporaries and if so, how?

• How does Miltonic difficulty relate to the difficulties associated with literary theory? what difficulties does Milton studies have with theory?

• What are the current politics of difficulty, beyond the academy? How is expertise or specialist knowledge currently viewed, and what kinds of arguments can we make for the utility of the type of difficulty encountered in studying the humanities?

• What difficulties does Milton bring to the classroom? what do students find most difficult about Milton? what do we as teachers find most difficult about Milton?

• Did Milton himself cultivate a particular reputation for difficulty?

• What investment do contemporary Milton scholars have in Miltonic difficulty? are there institutional or professional difficulties associated with being a Miltonist in today’s academic climate?

• Is Miltonic difficulty gendered? Where do we stand with Milton’s difficult relationship to gender today?

• How are moments of Miltonic difficulty sites of particular insight, creative productivity or generative resistance?

(4c) Milton and Science - Chair: Charlotte Nicholls (Room 118)

Katherine Cox (Long-Term Fellow, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California, USA): “Milton Overseas and the Torricellian ‘Ocean of Air’”

For scholars interested in Milton’s relationship to science, his trip to Italy in 1638-9 and meeting with Galileo anticipate the influence of the Galilean telescope in Milton’s cosmic descriptions. The new astronomy, however, is not the only revolutionary science that Milton may have encountered in Italy. Reborn from an ancient branch of mechanics, the science of pneumatics emerged in Florence and Rome as translations of Greek texts generated interest in theories of fluid mechanics (Galileo’s theory appeared in Two New Sciences [1638], but was conceived some thirty years earlier). In the early 1640s a Galilean disciple, Evangelista Torricelli, invented the barometer, a decisive turning point in the understanding of the atmosphere.

This paper contends that Milton’s contact with Galileo and friendship with his student, Carlo Dati, should be appreciated in light of their contributions to pneumatics. Transforming the notion a weightless atmosphere into an “ocean of air”—a heavy body that exerts pressure in every direction—the mid-century debate in pneumatics is a vital yet unappreciated source of Milton’s ecological poetics. This essay explains the potential transmission of pneumatic concepts into Milton’s purview and briefly explores their effect on the portrayal of the fallen atmosphere in his late masterpieces.

Stephen M. Fallon (John J Cavanaugh Professor of the Humanities, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA): “Milton, Isaac Newton, and Alchemy”

As part of a larger study of Milton and Isaac Newton, I am embarking on a study of Milton’s figurative use of and Newton’s experimental pursuit of alchemy. Milton’s and Newton’s vitalist understandings of spirit and body resemble the understandings of alchemists working on the transformation of metals and of medical chemists such as William Harvey and Francis Glisson. Work on Milton’s vitalism by Lyndy Abraham and more recently by Charlotte Nicholls has demonstrated the important influence of contemporary alchemical and medical theories. When articulating his own alchemical understanding of creation, Milton is working in the same orbit that Newton will explore later. In its nascent, pre-Restoration years what was to become the Royal Society met not only at Gresham College but also at the home of Milton’s close friend Katherine Jones, Lady Ranelegh, sister of Robert Boyle and mother of Milton’s pupil Richard Jones. Henry Oldenburg, Secretary of the Royal Society was a friend and correspondent of both Milton and Newton. It is likely that Newton was introduced to alchemical studies through manuscripts circulated by a group originally surrounding Samuel Hartlib, the German expatriate and intellectual networker who encouraged Milton to write Of Education. There are, in short, formal and informal intellectual circles propagating vitalist and alchemical in seventeenth-century England.

Yanxiang Wu (Lecturer, Shanghai University, China): “‘Be Lowly Wise’”: Milton’s Attitude to Science”

Most of the dialogue on astronomy in book eight suggests that Milton inclines towards the new astronomy of his age, yet the dialogue takes an abrupt turn in Raphael’s final admonition to Adam: “be lowly wise: / Think only what concerns thee and thy being / dream not of other worlds [. . .]” (8.173-75). A. O. Lovejoy inveighs against Milton for dragging into his epic of the Fall a dialogue on seventeenth-century astronomy in order to endorse a “primitive conception” of a jealous God and hostility to “all disinterested intellectual curiosity” (“Milton’s Dialogue on Astronomy” 141; 142). This accusation has yet to be squarely answered by Miltonists. The problem with Raphael’s admonition to Adam in book eight is that it seems to justify Satan’s questioning in book four: “Knowledge forbidden? / Suspicious, reasonless. [. . .]” (4. 515-16). Raphael’s admonition is crucially related to the central theme of the epic: forbidden knowledge. In this paper I propose an interpretation of Milton’s attitude to science by comparing it to Montaigne’s similar attitude towards Copernican astronomy and scientific enquiries in general. My argument is that Milton aligns with Montaigne and shares his belief that human enquiry of knowledge is an ongoing Tantalus project, that is to say, knowledge, or truth, is going to be forever out of reach. Such a belief distinguishes Milton from Francis Bacon, who believes that man will reach the final truth through improvement of methodology and accumulative growth of knowledge.

(4d) A Roundtable on the Hume commentary of Paradise Lost - Chair: David A. Loewenstein (Room 113)

The Patrick or Peter Hume commentary on Paradise Lost, published in 1695, is a ground-breaking event in Milton studies and literary history. The purpose of this roundtable is to highlight and examine its significance. Jacob Tonson published Annotations on Paradise Lost by Hume, which initiated the commentary tradition on Milton and, at more than 300 pages, was by far the most ambitious scholarly engagement with an English poem up to this point. It treats Paradise Lost as a great classic worthy of extensive and learned annotations, although notably without any reference to Milton’s controversial politics and biography, to Restoration or revolutionary contexts, or to Milton controversial prose writings (soon to be published by John Toland in 1698). The four panelists will consider the character of this major commentary, its implications for the poem’s early publishing history, its contribution to the construction of Milton as a poet, and its broader implications for English literary history. Each panelist on the roundtable with make a short presentation of no more than ten minutes addressing an important aspect of Hume’s commentary. This will allow approximately fifty minutes for discussion and questions.

With: Dave Harper (Colonel, US Military Academy, West Point, USA), John Leonard (Distinguished U. Professor, University of Western Ontario, Canad), David Loewenstein (Professor, Penn State, University-Park, Pennsylvania, USA), and John Rumrich (Professor, University of Texas, USA)

(4e) Samson Agonistes (II) - Chair: William Kolbrener (Room 120)

Hsing-hao Chao (Assistant professor, National Taichung University of Education, Taiwan): “The Holy Spirit in Samson Agonistes

The Holy Spirit has been frequently mentioned by critics in their discussion of Samson Agonistes, but the idea has not been rigorously investigated. This paper examines the idea of the Holy Spirit in the dramatic poem through the lens of De Doctrina Christiana. Thus, the Holy Spirit in Samson Agonistes cannot be understood as the person itself of the Holy Spirit, but as the virtue and power of God the Father. The only explicit reference to the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Chorus’ prayer refers to a spiritual gift conferred by God on Samson: his “heaven-gifted strength.” The Holy Spirit is, however, implicitly present in this poem. The “rouzing motions” and the “intimate impulse” can be interpreted as the works of the Spirit in the sense of the impulse or voice of the Father, but not the divine power of the Father operating regeneration. In this sense, Samson Agonistes cannot be read as a “regeneration drama,” as suggested by some critics, who equate Samson’s “rouzing motions” with the Father’s motions of prevenient grace in Paradise Lost (XI. 91). Nevertheless, Samson is a regenerated person whose “inward eyes” are “illuminated” by the Spirit as the light of truth.

Ala Fink (Doctoral candidate, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA): “Samson Agonistes and the Psalms: Living Righteousness”

Scholars tend to describe Samson’s change of mood from dejection to enthusiasm as sudden and identify Christian regeneration as its cause. This argument depends on a typological reading of the Psalter that privileges future events over past and present ones. On the other hand, Jason Rosenblatt argues that the theology undergirding Samson Agonistes is Hebraic, though mistakenly assumed to be Protestant (Renaissance England's Chief Rabbi: John Selden, 2006). In accord with Rosenblatt, I argue that Samson Agonistes offers an ethical understanding of the Psalter that is similar to the one found in Rabbi David Kimhi’s commentaries on the Psalms. Kimhi’s commentaries identify righteousness as a temporal quality that can be achieved through penitence. Thus, Kimhi’s commentaries provide a new theological framework according to which Samson’s righteousness is internally developed and fully instantiated through penitence. Kimhi’s commentaries further illuminate the poem’s tragedy by privileging the present life over the future, and highlighting Samson’s unnecessarily self-inflicted mental suffering.

Catherine G. Martin (Professor, University of Memphis, Tennessee, USA): “Martin Bucer’s Double ‘Justification by Faith’ in Samson Agonistes

Milton’s Preface to The Judgement of Martin Bucer not only endorses his hero’s views on divorce but his theology in general, a rare exception given De Doctrina Christiana’s disagreement with most “magisterial” Protestant theologians. Yet unfortunately, scholars chiefly focus on Milton’s aberrations from standard Protestant teaching and not on his redefinition of the key Protestant issue, justification by faith, which Bucer had modified to accommodate both Lutheran and liberal Catholic views. It further explains Bucer’s generally Erasmian theory and practice of imitatio Christi, wherein Christ’s “meritorious” sacrifice becomes much more fully redemptive than Luther’s legally “imputed” grace. Here truly “transforming” justification is gained not solely by “prevenient grace” but through a secondary cleansing of good works by Christ the Mediator. Having previously shown how Milton’s fallen Adam and Eve undergo this process in Paradise Lost, in this paper I argue that even pre-Christians like Samson may receive final justification on earth even though literally unable to hear the “good news” in distant times or places. Although outside the lineage leading to Christ, Samson gains his hard-won new faith partly through personal trial and error and partly through external “rousing motions” confirming and finally blessing his renewed dedication to God and his chosen people, who lacking his witness at the temple would be (as he himself nearly was) assimilated by the Philistines. As a whole, Bucer’s “double justification” theory explains many mysterious gaps in the tragedy while overcoming revisionist readings that place Samson among the reprobate.

(4f) Milton's Prose (II) - Chair: Daniele Borgogni (Room 124)

Christopher Warren (Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA): “Two Bs or not Two Bs: An Areopagitica Printer Question”

Milton’s Areopagitica is regularly invoked as one of the most important arguments for freedom of the press - an acknowledged progenitor of the U.S. First Amendment. Yet one of the great if under-appreciated ironies is that its original printer has never been definitively identified. This paper offers new evidence of Areopagitica’s printer. Drawing on newly-developed computationally-aided bibliographical methods, the paper combines analytic bibliographers’ detailed attention to instances of broken type with state-of-the-art Optical Character Recognition and anomaly detection. In addition to the B’s of the title, the paper will reveal more than 25 distinctive glyphs from Areopagitica’s 1644 printing and match many of them with acknowledged products from seventeenth-century printers.

Tobias Gregory (Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English, The Catholic University of America, Washington DC, USA: “The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates and the Fear of a Separate Peace”

The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates was first printed two weeks after the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649, but was mainly written in the several weeks before the execution. This paper will examine the implications of this fact: how we know it, why it matters, and how it affects our understanding of Tenure’s first projected audiences and purposes. When he wrote Tenure, I will argue, Milton was still concerned about the prospect of a separate peace between Charles and the Presbyterians, along the lines lately negotiated at Newport. This was not a new concern for Independents, nor was Milton alone in harboring it; fear of a Royalist-Presbyterian accord had been a leading motive for Pride’s Purge, and even during the king’s trial such fears had not disappeared. When Tenure appeared in February, it justified a fait accompli, and so it has most commonly been read ever since. When Milton drafted Tenure in January, however, he was writing not only to convince the public to go along with the trial, but to convince those responsible for the trial to carry it through to a capital sentence. Tenure shows that he did not regard this outcome as a given.

Elizabeth Sauer (Professor, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada): “The Afterlife of True Religion

In 2005 I had the privilege of delivering on “Of True Religion, Protestant Nationhood, and the Negotiation of Liberty” at IMS8, hosted by Christophe Tournu. I welcome the opportunity to reflect on the pamphlet’s textual and material reception at IMS12, themed “Milton’s Politics of Religion”. Composed during or just following the meeting of Parliament to veto the Declaration of Indulgence and to implement the Test Act, Milton’s Of True Religion, Hæresie, Schism, Toleration (1673) is clearly topical. Nevertheless, it experienced what has been an understudied afterlife in the paper wars over toleration and dissent in the Long Restoration. Key writings by Andrew Marvell, Richard Leigh, Roger Palmer (Earle of Castlemaine), William Penn, and John Locke informed the context in which Milton’s pamphlet was generated and circulated. A study of the company that the books keep with each other and with Of True Religion specifically, and helps break down the historical and disciplinary categorizations to which their authors—representative of a multifarious culture of dissent—have been subject at the hands of historians and literary critics.

15h45-16h15: Coffee break (Great Hall)

16h15-18h00: Panel sessions 5

(5a) Metaphors, Similes, and Similitudes in Paradise Lost - Chair: Andrea Walkden (Room Pasteur)

Hyunyoung Cho (Assistant Professor, George Mason University, Korea): “Simile in Paradise Lost, Yet Once More”

For a modern, non-European reader, one of the many challenges of reading Paradise Lost is posed by the epic poem’s long and complex similes. One often wonders what to make of these little vignettes, which at first glance seem to have their own stories to tell. Milton’s similes have long puzzled many readers, not just modern non-Westerners. As John Leonard has surveyed in his reception history of Paradise Lost, there has been critical scrutiny of Milton’s use of epic similes. Critics have long debated whether the similes mainly serve a decorative function, working as a temporary relief from the epic action, or whether there is a close correspondence between vehicle and tenor. In the second half of the twentieth century, however, a general critical consensus seems to have been reached that almost all the similes in Paradise Lost are “closely homologated” and that they play key roles in creating the meaning of the poem. In this study, I attempt to extend the discussion of Milton’s similes by examining a few examples that contain what one might call Pastoral or Georgic elements. Building on earlier readers’ insights, I propose that an examination of cross-references among these similes might offer a new interpretive possibility on this complex poem.

Ian James Hynd (PhD Student, University of Western Ontario, Canada): "Disappearing Wives in Milton's Sonnet 23 and Adam's Second Dream" (in place of "The Influence of Marlowe's Lucans first booke on Milton's "mighty" verse")

Since the Richardsons, critics have been alert to echoes of Sonnet 23 within Adam's dream of Eve in Paradise Lost Book 8. Both dreamers are given visions of their beloveds only to have them disappear as they wake, leaving them to "deplore [their] loss" in darkness. Commentary dealing with these similarities has been sparse, however, relegated to annotators' notes rather than critical debate. This paper draws on similar echoes in Virgil's Georgics IV and Aeneid II to argue that these disappearing wives show the limitations of consoling faith in the face of grief. Following a chain of wives lost, regained, and lost once more, I will look at allusions to the Virgilian Euridice and Creusa, whose disappearances are detailed with the same verbal patterns. The precedent for "self-imitation" set by Virgil likely underpins Milton's own "self-allusion," in which both poets draw on their earlier minor works for their major epics to display the same image: the disappearing wife. From these precedents and allusions, I make two claims: (1) that the influential tripartite rising movement of Sonnet 23 observed by Leo Spitzer is inconsistent with the Virgilian allusion of the final lines and (2) that the overriding theme of Sonnet 23 is grief in spite of profound faith, with the "trust to have / Full sight of her in Heav'n" conspicuously absent as the sonnet comes to a close.

Seth Lobis (Associate Professor of Literature, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California, USA): “What Does It Mean to Stand in Milton’s Universe"?

“They also serve who only stand and waite”; “I made him just and right, / Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall”; “Tempt not the Lord thy God, he said and stood”: Milton makes standing not only a poetic keynote but also a moral, political, and theological focal point. In this paper I consider the highly complex representation of standing in Paradise Lost—as a matter of physical and spiritual position, condition, or action; as a form of political resistance; as an expression of patience or endurance; and as the antithesis of the epic’s central tragic action, falling. God’s assertion in book 3 that Adam and Eve were created “Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall” is often taken as if the first clause depended on the second; that is, as if “to have stood” meant simply “to have not fallen.” But to construe the clause in this way is to miss all the ways in which Milton shows us rational creatures can stand in the world. I argue that Milton’s manifold representation of standing in the poem supports not only an anti-deterministic view of the Fall but more broadly a metaphysical view of higher being.

(5b) Milton's Language - Chair: Chia-yin Huang (Room 120)

Thomas N. Corns (Fellow of the British Academy, Emeritus Professor, Bangor University, G.-B.): “Tweeting, Trolling, Alternative Facts, and Fake News in Milton’s Prose Polemic” (CANCELLED)

Milton’s prose, no doubt with some justification, has been praised by a broad spectrum of progressive and liberal opinion from the Romantic period to our own age. Worthy sententiae adorn bookplates and library entrances. Indeed, the whole text of Areopagitica is transcribed on the walls of the Great Hall of Hart House, University of Toronto. There is an overwhelming consensus, disrupted only by reservations about his gender politics, that on issues of liberty, variously defined, he stands among the ranks of the good angels. Yet in his polemical prose we may recognise a precursor of the dirtier features of the political discourse of our own age.

Most innocently, he is the master of the proto-tweet, those retorts, 140 characters or less, that stud his ‘confutations’ from Animadversions through his defence of his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce and on to Eikonoklastes. Rarely would he have needed the 280 characters of the relaxed Twitter dispensation. Tweeting is a mode that privileges wit (or raw assertion) over fact or argument. Again, his brutal assaults on the respondent to his first divorce tract through to that on Alexander More share common ground with the unrelenting offensiveness and the personal destructiveness of trolling. Nor do the facts much inhibit him in such exercises. The insertion of the Pamela prayer in Eikon Basilike, if such it was, would constitute an egregious example of manufactured ‘news’. His persistence in the attack on More, even though he almost certainly knew he was not the author of the work he was attacking, shows a commitment to a policy of saying something often enough, loud enough, and (for preference) wittily enough, so that it will replace facts with alternative facts. Most concerning, perhaps, is Milton’s frequent reiteration of the most potent fake news of the mid-century, that hundreds of thousands of Protestants had been massacred in the Irish insurrection of 1641. Modern estimates place the total in the low thousands. The allegations underwrote the horrors that followed, in the Cromwellian campaign, in the exclusion of Ireland from the kinds of reparations effected in England in case of those who had lost property in the civil wars, in the horrors of the Popish Plot, and it underpinned centuries of anti-Catholic discrimination. Indeed, Milton, thou shouldst be living in this hour; you would probably have very many twitter followers.

David Currell (Assistant Professor, American University of Beirut, Lebanon): “Miltonic Satire and the Dynamics of Derision

According to Dryden (via Aubrey), Milton could not speak except under the sign of satire: “He pronounced the letter R (from littera canina, literally dog's letter) very hard (a certain sign of a satirical wit).” This presentation considers how Milton lets slip the canine letter in Animadversions (1641), An Apology (1642), and Pro populo Anglicano defensio secunda (1654), texts within which Milton offers his most detailed justifications for satire in public disputation in terms of a politics and ethics of derision. While Milton adduces Biblical warrants for these affects, the pairing also recalls keywords from Latin verse satire (Juvenal’s indignatio and Persius’s cachinno). In these texts, Milton cuts his satirical teeth on Hall’s Toothlesse Satyres and blackens the name of More, but in doing so also foreshadows the place of satire in his late poetic works. Where Virgidemiarum positioned itself against epic poetry, Milton assimilates satire to heroic discursive modes, activating an alternative classicizing tradition that cultivated a dynamic (rather than antagonistic) interplay between epic and satiric modes. His success in recreating this generic dynamism in Defensio secunda paves the way for the crucial place of satire in the generic orchestration of Paradise Lost and its further complication in Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes.

David Harris Sacks (Richard F. Scholz Professor of History and Humanities, Emeritus, History Department, Reed College, Portland, Oregon, USA): "The Politics of Religion: John Milton’s View of the Present State of Ireland" (MOVED FROM 9f)

In Spring, 1649, John Milton published a set of Observations upon the Articles of Peace with the Irish Rebels, responding, “by Authority,” on behalf of Council of State to the terms agreed between the Earl of Ormond, King Charles I’s Governor of Ireland and Ireland’s Roman Catholics. Although Charles himself had been tried and executed months before Milton’s comments were published, conditions in Ireland for remained for some time a living issue for the Commonwealth and for Oliver Cromwell, its most powerful figure. In commenting on Milton’s Observations a number of scholars have remarked on its debt to Edmund Spenser’s A View…of Ireland, which emphasized the barbarous customs of the Irish and the need to eradicate them using penal laws and harsh military measures before Ireland could be civilized and Christianized. Other scholars have juxtaposed the coercive civilizing mission advocated by Milton for Ireland with his commitment to personal liberty and republican freedom put forward in political tracts such as Areopagitica and The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. This paper uses Milton’s view of Ireland to consider the role play by his conceptions of human and Christian liberty in shaping his understanding of civility and theory of republican government.

Arnaud Zimmern (PhD Student, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA): “Here grows the cure of all”: Milton and Matthew Griffith Peddle Panaceas

When the celebrated royalist clergyman Matthew Griffith published his 1660 sermon “The Fear of God and of the King” in honor of General Monck’s victorious army, John Milton channelled his republican ire into a pamphlet entitled “Brief Notes Upon a Late Sermon.” In the first paragraphs of that response, Milton derides Griffith for his heavy-handed use of medical metaphors, calling him “a Pulpit-Mountibanck, not unlike the Fox, that turning Pedler, opend his pack of ware before the Kid; though he now would seem to personate the good Samaritan, undertaking to describe the rise and progress of our national malady, and to prescribe the onely remedy.” Milton’s 1660 rejoinder to Monck’s invasion, entitled “The Readie and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth,” may have whiffed of the panaceic, but it did not match Griffith’s 1661 follow-up sermon, “The Catholique Doctor and His Spiritual Catholicon to Cure our Sinfull Soules,” which went even further with the kinds of medico-theological associations Milton so vehemently despised. This paper investigates Milton’s subsequent decision to invoke panaceas – twice – in Paradise Lost (1667) in light of Griffith’s political-theology and illustrates how the growing popularity of panaceas as theological metaphors for Christ’s sacrifice met a dissenting and suspicious voice in Milton.

(5c) Accommodation and Originality - Chair: Grant Horner (Room 124)

Raphael Magarik (PhD Student, University of California at Berkeley, California, USA): “What We've Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate: On Miltonic Accommodation”

Theological accommodation has long interested Milton scholars, who have used it to solve problems about the poem’s anthropomorphic representation of God, its invention of extra-biblical narrative, and more. But, I argue, we need to contextualize Milton’s use of “accommodation” within a political discourse surrounding the word in mid-seventeenth-century England. That is, “accommodation” in the period named both God’s concessions to human beings and attempts at alliance and coordination across ideological, political, and religious discourses. By exploring pamphlet arguments over accommodations between Parliament and Charles, as well as a between Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Sectaries, I argue that these debates often turned on debates over the degree to which divine accommodation offered a model for or a limit on human compromise.

What is often treated as a theological or philosophical question in Milton’s writings thus has political ramifications. In particular, Milton articulates in his divorce tracts and Areopagitica a theory of imitatio dei with regard to accommodation. Because he rejects framings of God’s accommodation in terms of human weakness—placing them instead in a rhetorical, humanist tradition that understands accommodation as the political task of creating and appealing to a community—Milton argues that human beings should be as accommodating as God is. Reading the pamphlets on accommodation—instead of the Doctrina, as is traditional—gives us an entirely different, more overtly political conception of Miltonic accommodation.

Yaakov A. Mascetti (Lecturer, Bar Ilan University, Jerusalem, Israel): “Mysterious Signs of Unity: Partial Semiosis, Indeterminacy and the Spiritual Commonwealth in John Milton” (CANCELLED)

The present paper wishes to argue that Milton’s prelapsarian sexuality, his definition of spiritual exegesis, his pneumatological ecclesiology and spiritual commonwealth, were all founded on an idea of semiotic partiality, an indeterminacy where the hidden signified is partly revealed by the external (and perceivable) signifier. Favoring neither utter division nor perfect union, this idea of indeterminacy informed Milton’s understanding of prelapsarian intimacy, where the actual act is the partial manifestation of a fragile equilibrium between body and spirit, a mysterious discordia concors of fleshly sign and spiritual meaning. Similarly, the space separating the exterior human sphere from the interior Divine truth, was to Milton paramount to the space between the Scriptural signifier and its Godly signified. In the political sphere, this partial signification allowed the individual liberty within the civil polity, based on voluntary and free choices and cognitive refinement. The variegated and unified commonwealth was reflected in Milton’s idea of ecclesiastical cohesion resulting from the individual's regeneration and acceptance of the Holy Spirit's inner work for the "advancement of truth." It is thus that my paper wishes to demonstrate that Milton’s idea of partial semiosis informed his idea of prelapsarian sexuality, his ecclesiology and ideal commonwealth.

Linda C. Mitchell (Professor, San Jose State University, California, USA): “Accedence Commenc’t Grammar and John Milton’s Claims of Originality”

Milton claims in Accedence Commenc’t Grammar (1669) that he has produced “A work suppos’d not to have been done formerly; or if done, not without such difference here in brevity and alteration, as may be found of moment” (“To the Reader” Sig. A2). However, his claim is not entirely accurate on several counts. We have to assume that Milton was familiar with other Latin grammar texts such as Thomas Farnaby’s Systema grammaticum (1641). Even though he tries, Milton is not able to claim outright that his own grammar was original. He states incorrectly that he has written the first Latin grammar in English, but Ben Jonson published The English Grammar in 1640, which is earlier than Milton’s grammar. Milton claims he has improved on other Latin grammars in English, but other grammarians of his time were also making improvements on their Latin grammars. Also, Milton argues that he is the first to write a grammar with “brevity and alteration,” but that claim is not accurate. He neglects to mention other grammarians such as John Brinsley and John Danes who were writing texts that could be described as having “brevity” (Sig. A2). I will examine Accedence Commenc’t Grammar to show that Milton does not do what he claims to do: a work of originality and brevity.

Tianhu Hao (Professor and Assistant Dean, Zhejiang University, China): "Whither Goes AI: Paradise Lost, Frankenstein, Ex Machina, and the Boundaries of Knowledge" (MOVED FROM 4a)

This essay discusses John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the contemporary film Ex Machina as a coherent group concerning the boundaries of knowledge and the perils of scientific Prometheanism. The development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) must be delimited and contained, if not curtailed or banned, and scientists ought to proceed in a responsible and cautious manner. An obsessive or excessive pursuit of knowledge, usually a human’s, in the direction of equaling God and creating humanoid beings constitutes the essential feature of scientific Prometheanism, which can end in catastrophic destructions. Both Frankenstein and Ex Machina are modern in spirit and make a pungent critique of an aspect of modernity, i.e. scientific Prometheanism with an exposition of the real dangers posed by AIs to the very existence of humanity and civilization. Milton’s classical discussion of Prometheanism and explication on the necessity of the bounds of knowledge in Paradise Lost provide the epistemological framework for Frankenstein and Ex Machina.

(5d) International Milton - Chair: Matt Dolloff (Room 118)

Sharihan Sameer Ata Al-Akhras (Dr., University of Durham, G.-B.): “Milton’s Demonic ‘Other’ and the Narrative Resistance: The Arab Women Rewriting Milton”

This paper revisits Milton’s employment of mythology and the demonic, by shedding a light on a neglected, yet intriguing possible presence of Middle-Eastern mythology – or as identified in this work – Judeo-Arabic mythology in Paradise Lost. The mythographic reception of Milton’s work has been rightly discussed within a Greco-Roman frame. However, this paper offers for consideration an analysis of the unique role of Judeo-Arabic mythology, by directing attention toward examining the possible presence of two Judeo-Arabic demonic figures in Paradise Lost: the Islamic devil, Iblis, and his consort in the Jewish tradition, Lilith.

The argument demonstrates the way Milton’s deployment of Judeo-Arabic demonic characters not only mirrors the Biblical story of the Fall, but also connects with the political and religious upheavals of his age, including the emergence of the first English translation of the Qur’an in 1649. Furthermore, by examining the two Judeo-Arabic demonic figures in Paradise Lost, not only the treatment of the demonic in Milton’s work is revisited in a way that allows for a wider scope of literary analysis, but the complex treatment of gender, identity and ‘the Other’ are similarly understood within a more pluralistic context. Finally, the paper also provides the first discussion of the contemporary reception of Milton’s Paradise Lost in the writings of Arab women specifically, exploring the way the very same demonic figures – Iblis and Lilith – are deployed by these female Arab authors, while resisting and redefining the role of gender in religion, society and politics, across a wide geopolitical landscape in the Levant and the Gulf.

Miriam Piedade Mansur Andrade (Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil): “The Brazilian Milton: Innovation, recreative Spirit and Absence in Assis and Rosa”

John Milton and Influence: Presence in Literature, History and Culture (1991), by John Shawcross, enquires into the influence that the English poet had on his successors. Chapter 9 of the book, entitled “The American Milton: Imitation, Creative Spirit and Presence,” refers directly to Milton’s influence on North-American literature, which carries a burden of dependence, where Milton’s presence becomes a source of inspiration. His theory is valid because Milton’s writings played an important role in the historical, political, and social fields in the United States, especially in the nineteenth century. However, Shawcross’s attempt to deviate from the anxiety of influence, by playing with Harold Bloom’s words, did not succeed—his studies only reinforced it, calling Milton a star that should be admired and imitated. Following another trajectory, moving to Brazil and adapting the title of the chapter by Shawcross, this paper will discuss the traces of Milton that can be found in the short story “A Igreja do Diabo” (“The Devil’s Church”) by Machado de Assis (1839-1908) and the novel Grande Sertão: Veredas (The Devil to Pay in the Backlands) by Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967). Assis’s and Guimarães’s writings allude to religious issues while at the same time going beyond the traditional politics of religion and examining other elements explored in Paradise Lost. The Brazilian authors established textual relations with the English poet not based on imitation, but through the use of key, indirect references and allusions, in which they innovate and recreate Milton’s texts in Brazilian Literature. In this sense, the English poet is part of the compositional universe of Assis and Rosa, but not in a straightforward manner—rather as an absence that may be read as presence. The intertextual relations between Assis and Rosa, on the one hand, and Milton, on the other hand, will be analyzed based on Jacques Derrida’s thoughts on the logic of the supplement, with writing serving as a way of proliferating meaning in different spatiotemporal contexts.

Thomas Festa (Professor of English, State University of New York, New Paltz, New York, USA): “Milton and W.S. Merwin’s Poetic Radicalism”

In the year that witnessed the publication of his groundbreaking poetry collection, The Lice (1967), American poet W.S. Merwin was invited to give a talk at a Milton conference. Over the course of the lecture, an iconoclastic Milton emerges whose “celebrated rhetoric” is seen to stand at odds with his inspired and inspiring poetry. Merwin’s comments about Milton’s poetics verge on the positions he would take in his manifesto “On Open Form” (1969), where “technique” and “abstract form” become “dangerous” when either is “made into an idol and loved for itself.” Merwin offers a trenchant, idiosyncratic set of remarks on Milton’s poetry that attempt to characterize Milton’s achievement at a profounder level than that of an imitable style. Merwin’s own aesthetic radicalism bears a powerful resemblance to Milton’s poetics of “ancient liberty” in political origin and spiritual rationale, even if, superficially, the two approaches to poetic form might seem opposed. The unconscious power of Merwin’s despair, as much as Milton’s figure of the “celestial patroness” who inspires his epic, forces open the form to create an “answerable style.” Written while in self-imposed exile in southwestern France and in protest against American imperialism, Merwin’s apocalyptic The Lice sounds many authentically Miltonic notes.

(5e) Milton and Contemporary Writers - Chair: Vladimir Brljak (Room 112)

Warren Chernaik (Professor, King’s College, London, G.-B.): “Donne, Milton and the Understanders”

The publisher’s Preface to Donne’s Poems (1633) addresses “the understanders”, differentiating them from “ordinary” or “unworthy” readers, the benighted “ignorant”: one of the “Elegies upon the Author” included in that volume praises Donne’s poems as being “so farre above its Reader, good, /That we are thought wits, when ‘tis understood.” Milton consistently asserted both in his polemical prose works and in Paradise Lost that a “fit audience” would necessarily be “few”. Along with dismissing “the blockish vulgar,” the “many” blinded by “Error and Custome,” Milton argued that the enterprising author, entering the marketplace of opinion, would find an audience—“few perhaps, but those few, such of value and substantial worth, as truth and wisdom, not respecting numbers and big names, have bin ever wont in all ages to be contented with”. In one respect, the two authors Donne and Milton disagree, in that Milton, here and elsewhere, envisaged publication of his works, making both prose works and poems available for public scrutiny, where Donne deliberately restricted circulation of his poems, which during his lifetime remained in manuscript, passed about, initially at least, in a small circle of friends. But though they may define their desired audience differently, both writers see difficulty, an immediate obstacle to understanding, as a spur to potential readers, distinguishing the worthy from the unworthy.

Donne’s normal practice was to send poems to a select group of friends, who were assumed to share in the values expressed. As he says a number of times in works of different kinds, the exchange of sentiments in a poem or a letter is an act of friendship, a way of uniting those separated by place or by contingencies. To Milton, who conceived of poetry as “written to aftertimes”, in the hope of leaving an enduring monument, the present moment and its concerns are always shadowed by a perspective encompassing “all ages”. And yet the theme of love or friendship, perpetuated by an exchange of letters or poems, is as important for Milton as for Donne. A recurrent theme in Milton’s writings, in Latin as in English, is the poet’s isolation, lack of companionship, or sense of loss. In this essay, I would like to explore the idea of the search for a true friend or companion in a number of Milton’s writings in English and Latin, including some of his sonnets and Paradise Lost, in relation to the idea of “fit audience”.

Jameela Lares (Prof., University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA): “There Is No Way but Or: Method in Milton and Bunyan”

Both Paradise Lost and The Pilgrim’s Progress can be usefully examined as an expression of method, a key term in the seventeenth century and a word that can be traced to back to the Galenic idea of meta-hodos, a transformation of the path. Milton’s method is Ramist, that is, marked by the either/or bifurcating tendency of Pierre de la Ramée (1515-1572), as are other texts in his corpus, such as The Reason of Church-Government and De Doctrina Christiana. His bifurcation is notable in Paradise Lost, where he often provides contrary options by means of or, positioning the second option as the correct one. By contrast, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress already has a defined direction that does not admit an or. In contemporary terms, Bunyan’s allegory is path dependent, or one that bases current decisions on past ones. Bunyan’s path is literal, a marked road to follow no matter what, even when there is no way to go but “right up the hill.” I propose to compare the method of these two Puritan near-contemporaries to see what further meaning can be teased out of their different approaches to finding and proclaiming their messages.

Sharon van Dijk (PhD student in Classics, UCL, London, G.-B): “Lamenting Premature Deaths: Milton’s pastoral elegies and Fletcher’s Daphnis”

The Latin eclogue Daphnis, written by Giles Fletcher the Elder (bap. 1546, d. 1611) on the death of Nicholas Carr (d. 1568), was originally published in Carr’s posthumous Latin edition of Demosthenes’s Olynthiacs and Philippics (1571). It can also be found in a section of BL Harley MS 6947 dating from the mid-1650s, which is politically royalist and originates from Cambridge.

The Royalist nature of this sequence, which includes poetry from Milton’s contemporaries at Cambridge, could explain the absence of verse by Milton himself. Yet the order of the poems in it suggests the earlier Cambridge eclogue may be connected to Milton; the epicedium following the eclogue is for Edward King, the subject of Milton’s Lycidas. There are indeed several striking similarities between Fletcher’s Daphnis and Milton’s Lycidas and Epitaphium Damonis, which all lament the premature death of young men. For example, Nicholas Carr and Charles Diodati, who were both medical doctors, gather herbs in Daphnis and the ED, respectively. Exploring the similarities between these poems in detail, I will argue that Milton was familiar with Fletcher’s eclogue for Carr and used it as an intertext for his own pastoral elegies.

(5f) Samson Agonistes (III) - Chair: Jane Raisch (Room 113)

Jaemin Choi (Assistant Professor, Mokpo National University, South Korea): “‘Some Rousing Motions in Me’”: Milton’s Iconoclastic Moments and the Emergence of Puritan Dramaturgy”

Conventionally, Milton was viewed as a puritan writer, whose literary fame largely lies in his poetic works. Despite diverse dramatic elements easily recognizable in his poems as well as his abiding interest in the genre, critics had been reluctant to re-examine his works from the perspective of early modern dramatic tradition or theatricality, the dominant literary mode of early modern times, largely because Milton is, after all, a puritan writer, a writer who, as the assumption goes, must have shared with other godly writers the iconoclastic impulses of hating and destroying “misplaced images and worships” shamelessly staged in Renaissance playhouses. However, thanks to the much-needed changes in academic landscape on Puritanism, as showcased by Lowenstein’s Milton and the Drama of History, the relevance of Milton’s works to theatricality is now gaining scholarly attention. Drawing on recent scholarly findings on Milton’s dramatic elements (e.g. Timothy Burbery’s Milton the Dramatist), my work-in-progress paper will suggest that Milton’s impressive literary outputs reflecting his active engagement and experiment with theatricality should not be taken as a proof of his genius, whose herculean efforts unshackled even the limiting straightjacket of puritan ideology. Instead, I will argue that his achievements are better explained when considered within the historical context of English Reformation and its iconoclastic energies unleased during the late seventeenth century.

Jonathan Koch (Doctoral candidate, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA): “When a Nazarite Marries a Philistine: Mixed Union in Milton’s Samson Agonistes

We know something of early-modern marriages predicated on religious conversion—think, for instance, of Jessica’s union with Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice—but what of mixed marriages without conversion? What of those striking examples of Charles I and Charles II whose unions with Roman Catholic brides caused anxiety and strife in England? Or as well of John Milton’s marriage to Mary Powell, a union fraught with religious and political difference? In this paper, I will argue that Milton imagined such a marriage in the union of Samson and Dalila, and that his poem—cast as a drama—invited readers not simply to consider, but to experience, as a theater of the mind, the meaning of religious toleration in marital union. In Samson Agonistes, Milton tested the very social, political, economic, and casuistic arguments used in polemic against mixed-confessional unions, balancing pragmatic maneuvers with the affective ties that might allow couples to navigate spiritual difference. By entering into the affective space of Samson’s marriage, I aim to follow Milton’s readers in discovering toleration in the bedchamber and in discovering the literary text as the ideal form in which to grapple with the meaning and character of religious toleration.

Tessie Prakas (Assistant Professor of English, Scripps College, Claremont, California, USA): “Among the heathen round”: Ministry in Samson Agonistes

This paper reads Milton’s Samson Agonistes as a critical examination of ministerial corruption. I argue that the poem’s protagonist comes to regard his own sinful actions as a vicious form of ministry. Building subtly on the polemic of his antiprelatical tracts, Milton appears in this poem to negate the possibility of positive ministry altogether. Central to my argument is Samson’s reference to himself, early in the poem, as God’s erstwhile “mighty minister” (706). While Samson laments the loss of this position, I suggest that its significance endures throughout the poem as a reminder not of his exemplary virtue but rather of his persistence in sin. I draw particular attention to a liturgical allusion that has received little scholarly attention—that is, to Samson’s describing his corruption in words clearly derived from the General Confession of the Book of Common Prayer. From this, the paper turns to Samson’s famous destruction of the temple, suggesting that that episode should ultimately be read less as a terroristic attack on a particular religious group than as an attempt to consume institutionalized ministry in its entirety.

18h30-20h30: Reception at the Town Hall (Place Broglie, Strasbourg)

21h15-22h30: Cruise on the River Ill (from the Old Town to the European Parliament, and back)

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The organizers.

Updated: 14 June 2019


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