Wednesday, December 18, 2013

With Love, from Oxford: Social Proof UPDATE

So I did finally hear back from the illustrious William Poole of Oxford. He was surprisingly warm. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use his feedback for the version of the paper I turned in for this class, but intend to in the revised version I hope to present at BYU's English Symposium.

See our brief exchange below...

Dr. Poole,

I’m a masters student at Brigham Young University studying John Milton. My current research project argues that the passages of Paradise Lost dealing with Babel should be read as a theodicy of God’s forcible obstruction of communication. Further, I believe contrasting Milton’s earlier claim that restricting the flow of knowledge is “contrary to the manner of God” (Areopagitica) to Book XII might offer some insight into how Milton’s views were affected by his imprisonment and the burning of his political tracts following the Restoration.

In the course of my research, I came across The Divine and the Grammarian in the 17th-Century Universal Language Movement. I’m still digesting it, but it was a fascinating read. Understanding Milton’s response to or participation in this movement would surely strengthen (or correct) my argument, but I can’t seem to find any sources on the subject. Could you point me in the right direction?

Jake Clayson

Dear Jake Clayson,

Apologies for my tardy response, but I've been very busy with interviews for the last week or so.
I'm not sure if Milton had any direct contact with the universal language movement -- most of their texts appeared after he was blind, and he was culturally and politically remote from most of its proponents, with the possible exceptions of Francis Lodwick and his friend Abraham Hill. But in terms of ideas, I think Milton would have been interested but sceptical. He would have known of discussions of the possibility of a 'real character' from Francis Bacon and probably John Wilkins's Mercury too: but my feeling is that Milton would have considered the epistemological confidence of the movement to be misplaced. The standard book on all this is Rhodri Lewis's Language, Mind and Nature: Artificial Languages in England from Bacon to Locke. Have a look at that and see where it gets you. 

Good luck with your research!
All best,

Will Poole

Babblers vs. Nimrods: Milton on Gods Gatekeeping Ethics

Here's my final research paper. I plan to submit it to the 2014 English Symposium, “Mightier than the Sword: The Power of Literature and Literacy,” so please feel free to send any critique you may have my way.

A Teaser...

For many historians, the pamphlet wars of the seventeenth century largely define the English Revolution as the first modern revolution “complete with a nascent public sphere, people beginning to perceive themselves as public actors, and, most importantly, a free press that empowered both” (Wheeler 340). It was in this context that Milton’s political pamphlets—including Areopagitica, which defends the very principles the seventeenth-century pamphleteering depended on—was published. The novelty of widespread, printed public debate was not lost on those of Milton’s era. Bookseller George Thomason, Milton’s friend, collected some 22,000 pamphlets 
and other publications between 1640 and 1660 to commemorate their historical significance (Pooley 231). In contrast, Royalist detractors—publishing their criticism in pamphlets, ironically—often used post-Babel babble as a symbol for the budding public sphere and to “restore authority to the King’s language” (Holston 18).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My final paper: A reflection

Before I go off on explaining my process for finally getting my act together and completing this final essay, I do just want to make it clear that I really did learn a lot in this class.  I greatly enjoyed the class discussions, and I feel that I gained a better understanding of how to read and analyze poetry.  I think I understand a little better just why so many Romantic poets absolutely loved Milton.

This is the story of how I finally completed my final paper the hard way.  As many in the class may have noticed, I missed a number of classes, which certainly didn’t help my ability to keep up with the reading and writing load.  I fell way behind in completing this essay, which is why it was turned in late.  Truth be told, I felt kind of swamped by the material—I mean, how do you come up with anything remotely original to say about an author who people have been debating for nearly 400 years?  As such, I felt like I was at a bit of a loss to come up with anything.  I was, however, drawn to the idea of looking first at Milton and Oliver Cromwell, specifically at the idea of Cromwell as inspiration for Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost.  I even wrote a short essay on that subject, which you might now recognize as forming a portion of my final essay.

Final Paper: Ambitions and Passivity: An Examination of Milton and his Works in the Light of Revolution

Here is my final paper.

There once was a paper...

So, here is the finished product of my paper: Ta-Da! I had a wonderfully positive experience researching and writing it. I think the most fun I had was through networking. Figuring out that there were people on the other side of the country (or planet as the case may be) who were not only interested in what I was interested in, but also interested in how my ideas developed. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way...

The world is a very non-linear place. I'm not sure when I first realized this fact, but here are the top three BYU experiences (listed in no particular order) that most impressed that fact on me:
  • Watching Kurosawa's Rashomon at BYU's International Cinema as an undergrad
  • Discovering the art of the personal essay as Pat Madden read Asymptosy in the Harold B. Lee Library
  • Reading, researching, and writing about Paradise Lost
 Very little went as I imagined it would. I took the class because I wanted to read Milton's grand epic, but found myself most excited when we picked up Areopagitica. I suppose the libertarian literature/media I've been ingesting over the past few years got me primed for Milton's views on gatekeeping, intellectual freedom, etc. Initially, I figured I'd pursue what Chelsea later delved deep into (Snowden and all). But after some conversations with Greg, Google, Gideon, and (of all people) one of the masterminds at More Good Foundation, I thought very seriously about applying Areopagitica to the present shifts in LDS public relations and CES policies (see: Mormopagitica).

In retrospect, I think I would have enjoyed following the Mormon rabbit further down the rabbit hole, and almost wish I could have a do-over. But when I sat down to write the shorter writing assignment (which, like Greg, I found invaluable), I felt a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of wrapping my head around such a multifaceted issue without the benefit of three-hundred years worth of historians winnowing away at the facts. And I was becoming enamored by both the harmony and dissonance I saw between Areopagitica and Paradise Lost. Specifically, I was fascinated by the fact that Milton decries forcible gatekeeping in Areopagitica as contrary to "the manner of God and nature," but saw a God who Paradise Lost who proscribed the spread of knowledge in a variety of ways. I couldn't help but ask why Milton would have reversed this claim after being so unjustly censored and imprisoned by the restored monarchy.

Ironically, as I started to research in earnest, I found myself connecting much more frequently in person than online. I think what I appreciated about face-to-face social research was how quickly I was able to get social proof each time. Whether it was a chat with Greg as we crossed campus after class, an intrusion on Gideon or Jason Kerr in their respective offices, or conversation with fellow graduate instructors in the carrels of the JFSB, conversing real-time gave me the chance to instantly pick up some new insight and gauge (sometimes through non-verbal feedback) whether I was on track.

Adventures in Miltonland

We made it! Hooray!

To say I'm completely satisfied with my final paper would be a stretch, but I tend to never be satisfied with my final product when writing a research paper. Always one more thing to add or change to make it better. However, one of the things that strengthened my paper and guiding it to where it ended up was the specific research approaches we took in this class. The process to write this paper was very refreshing, and I even used similar strategies to write a Poe-Hitchcock comparison paper for another class in which I was struggling to find sources for. It was quite the journey, and a good one too.


Like many of my peers, I also (relatively) enjoyed writing this paper because I'd come to love my self-chosen topic over the course of the semester. We had ample opportunity to reach out-I used blogs, traditional articles and interviewed with a Milton professor, Dr. Kim Johnson, on campus. 

Typically, my papers are a less than three day process-outline, then write. I wrote my first paper on the female pursuit of knowledge in Milton's works. I did much research, several blog posts and discussed the idea in my Transatlantic Literature/Women's Studies class. Dr. Siegfried and Dr. Johnson helped me formulate a narrower scope-Milton's portrayal of Eve as evidence of his "Feminism". Overall, I am very happy with my paper. 

I was surprised to hear back from the conference I submitted my paper to-no acceptance/denial yet-but still, it was more exciting than I thought it would be. For me, I have learned not to be so afraid of reaching out to others. People have a lot to say and experts love to be asked about their topics of expertise, so why not glean from their wisdom? In talking with my Transatlantic Lit class, several Milton classmates and multiple professors, I definitely put more effort into understanding my subject than I really have ever done for a paper. It's something I will try to do in the future. 

Which key?: Unlocking Milton (social proof and scholarship)

I don’t think I have ever been more satisfied with a research paper in my whole career of paper writing! Maybe its because I had it almost entirely done a full day before it was due or because my ideas had had plenty of conversation and percolation. I actually managed to get to the point where I was in control of the paper rather than the paper in control of me.

The Milton controversy with Christianity and paganism was something we talked about from the beginning of the course. My blog posts pretty well document the progression of my idea itself (first here, then here and here). I initially thought I would focus on what kind of Christ Milton was depicting and why. But research, interviewing with Dr. Burton, and some of your suggestions led me more in the direction of why the use and then rejection of classical allusions and just letting the Christ and Christianity aspect work itself in.

The social proof aspect was what I think really made this project for me. Realizing that anyone could be a potential help, even if its just that I am able to reach a higher plane in talking with them made it exciting. I bounced ideas off of my husband, was super helpful in that regard. We so often assume people won’t be interested that we don’t say anything. (But really, we are writing the paper so that people will be interested, right? And if we hope to publish we need people to be interested.)
Another cool moment (that didn’t even hit me till right now) was actually in talking with my mother-in-law. In passing she asked what my paper was about, while I was working on it and I started to go through my thoughts. We had a nice little conversation about it, about Christ and classical learning, etc. What I had forgotten was that she was born and raised in the Catholic church before she became a member of the LDS faith and so had more of a background in to Milton’s world and what he was dealing with than I ever will. As it was, our brief talk helped me start to think more along the lines of what of Milton’s environment would have lead him to write what he did.

I started to get a little anxious-crazy when I realized I had a question and a good start on research but not really an answer. My vital claim was missing. Turning to the text in an in-depth effort to locate the bits and pieces I had been finding in my research cleared this up for me. The text sparked my question and after a look at what was going on, gaining an understanding of the pertinent background other than my own limited one, my answering could be found by returning to the text.

It’s like finding a lock and searching the whole house for the key. Once you’ve found a couple likely ones you can’t remember exactly what the lock looks like and so you have to take them all back to see which one fits.

The Incredible Journey through Paradise Lost

When I was reading Paradise Lost, I was instantly drawn to the character Satan. I found his character, his language and his almost protagonist role to be much more fascinating than any other character in the poem. I knew that I wanted to write my paper on an aspect of him. In one of my posts I talked about how I noticed some human characteristics in Satan  link. Another blog post showed how I had noticed some similarities between Satan and Milton link. I decided to focus on this aspect, which was how my first topic came about. I looked at this relationship from a religious point of view, trying to see how there may be a correlation between Milton's radical religious ideas and Satan's character. However, as I did my social media research and bounced my ideas around with friends, scholars and Professor Burton, I changed my argument to Milton using Satan as a tool to prove that rhetoric and words are separate from morality, thus making Milton's connection to Satan more rhetorical than moral.

Dr. Milton or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Proof

Now that the initial "Praise the Lord it's done!" phase of my paper is over, it's quite nice to take a look back over my writing process and see how I succeeded and how I need to improve. This assignment was a bit different from most others I'd had, and it was interesting to flex some academic muscles I wasn't too familiar with.

The End

          Wow, has this paper just stressed me to the point of insanity. I don't know what it was about this particular assignment, but I think I kind of wanted to show everyone (okay, mostly just myself) that I don't have to like an author to write a good paper.
          Which brings me to my next point: no, I did not grow to love Milton that much. Despite the fact that I named my fish after him, he just didn't stick out to me. I'm still glad that I chose this major authors course over the others because at least I've learned something about the works and the life of an author other than Shakespeare...who I am sick of.
          I'm not used to being very social about my school work, especially papers or essays, but the first step in socially optimized research is to TELL PEOPLE. I don't necessarily procrastinate enough to be considered really irresponsible, but I do like going at my own pace. The last unit of this class, the research unit, has been the most difficult for me. To talk to everyone about the progress of my paper (or lack thereof) is just way out of the ordinary for me, but near the end, I had several people (like my parents, an old high school teacher) reading drafts of my paper to give me feedback. but I can already see how I'm going to benefit from it.

My Experience with Milton

Literati at their finest.
To start off, I had to take this last opportunity to post a picture of Paradise Lost, the band that has plagued all of our research efforts.

Now on to the story of my paper. I didn't come up with the idea for my topic by any noble means. I just enjoy disagreeing with people. I thought that it was just too easy to read Adam as symbolic of humanity and asked myself, "why could that be wrong?" Since it's so much more fun to prove people wrong than it is to prove them right, I stuck with that topic and it turned into what I hope is a decent paper. (If not, I blame the Fall.)

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Well, as the semester comes to a close, I wanted to talk a little bit about my research process for the paper that I finished last week on the humanity of John Milton's Satan figure in Paradise Lost. They say that sometimes looking back on where you've been can be one of the most important things in helping you to move forward, and Heaven knows well enough that with graduation soon approaching, I could use some perspective.

All in the all, I really enjoyed researching the topic. It's one of the most fundamental concepts in understanding Paradise Lost, and I felt like there was a little place cut out for me in terms of being able to contribute to the overall conversation. My research really began with Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin, one of the most influential works of criticism for PL. I started reading it about a month into the semester and got through most of it by the time that I needed to start actually drafting, so it was really influential in terms of helping me to form my research question. I build my question around a question that I felt Fish had neglected to some extent, that Satan can in some sense be seen as a regular human character with regular human vices. As a result, my paper was largely a response to his criticism. I got some really valuable feedback along the way, though, and that really helped to shape my research.

Venue Submission Report!

I was looking for places to submit my paper, and I wasn't having much luck until Elise posted this source. From their website:

"New Academia is a refereed journal published quarterly by Interactions Forum, Pune. 
The Journal strives to publish research work of high quality related to Literature written in English Language across the World, English language and literary theory. The aim of the journal is to give space to scholars and researchers to publish their works."

I feel it suits my topic fairly well. I was initially a little shy about submitting my paper, as I feel it's not  up to snuff for publication, but this call for papers has an editor as part of the process, an experience I'd love to have! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On the Creation of Modern Comparison

Except this is really my last one of my undergraduate career.
Still, it feels never-ending. Probably will be.
I'll be honest: there's very little of Milton that I felt any connection to. Scott wrote a post about T.S. Eliot and his thoughts on Milton, and I responded to it with the following: "Verbose inefficiency seems a good description for what I've been annoyed with."

There were only a few times that I found myself interested in Milton's work. Those times were his Divorce Tracts and Areopagitica. That's not to say that I didn't find class discussions and the primary texts interesting. I just mean to say that Milton didn't astound me with his poetry the way that Eliot does. I don't like very much poetry, so I will always be more fond of prose.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Venue Submission

I emailed a proposal and attached my paper to Dr. Corns with the British Milton Seminar. I doubt I'd be able to attend but it was a neat experience to actually submit a paper to a conference!

I also submitted my paper to the BYU Scholars Archive.

Man of Sin: Complete at Last!

Well, it's done! I'm finished with my paper, and I've submitted it to a couple of different venues. Here's the link for anyone interested in reading the full version.

Publication Venues and an UPDATE

So after much searching I'm in the process of submitting to this call for papers. It fits relatively well. I have to submit a CV and 300 words abstract. Has any of the other venues you guys are planning on submitting to asked for a curriculum vitae? It makes sense I just didn't realize it was common.

I'm sad this CFP has already passed because my papers fits along with it beautifully! But its nearly 2 years old. Oh well.

Wait!! I just stumbled on another venue. I'm liking this fit better so I'm going to send them an email and see if I can submit.

So the 3rd venue I talked about above had a $550 article handling fee, so I decided against for fear I might somehow actually be accepted and then have to pay it.

I also sent a proposal to the British Milton Seminar.

Also, for those interested, I found this bit of submission etiquette or publication ethics that I wasn't aware of.

Milton's Paradox: Justifying Classical Allusions

Whoa, I missed the memo we were posting these on here;] So here's mine!

Hunger in Paradise: Appetite as Character Development in the Works of Milton

Here's my google doc  for my final paper!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Final Paper: Satan's Rhetoric and Morality in Paradise Lost

Here's the paper! Good luck everyone in finals!

Final Paper- Adam and the Individual

Posted the paper here on Google Docs. My computer is being a pain, so let me know in the comments if the link is broken or something is up.

Thanks everyone and good luck with wrapping up this semester.

Carmen Thorley--Final Research Paper

Posted on Google Drive!
Thank goodness this is done, right? Right? Ha.

Comparison of Milton's Portrayals of Eve and Dalila and so forth...


John Milton as a Proto-Feminist Through the Heroization of Eve

Here's the link to my paper!

Sorry if the formatting is funny-I pasted from my Word document. I kind of changed my focus/thesis yesterday after talking with Dr. Johnson.

Final Milton Paper

First! Good luck with finals everyone!

The Dangers of Extreme Individualism in the Pursuit of Freedom

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Library Adventures

        Hey, so here I am sifting through our posts to find any last minute nuggets for my paper, and I realize I didn't even post about my library visit.
        All cards on the table: I have never checked a book out of the HBLL in my life. (Also, I'm practically a senior) It's always been terrifying to me! There is just so much in there. So I moseyed on through the entire place (Unfortunately, I had gone when the help desks were closed for devotional). I moved some of those fun automatic shelves and eventually got up to the fifth floor where I found myself in the 17th-18th English Literature section that was just full of Milton goods.
        TONS of essays and criticism on Milton. I found most of the stuff I needed within the Milton Studies volumes that are published every once in a while with new essays on Milton and his works. There were fifty volumes of these, so I absolutely found what I needed, including:

--"Multiple Perspectives in Samson Agonistes: Critical Attitudes Toward Dalila"
--"Kinship and the Role of Women in Paradise Lost"
--"Milton on Women--Yet Once More"
--"Milton's Eve"

        I also found a copy of "Threshold Poetics" that I had thought would be useful when I came across a sample of it online. Turned out to not be what I needed though.
        But it was great to see real books again. I know that sounds silly, and it's probably a bit late for me to be singing praises to the library, but it's just incredible how quickly I found what I needed (once I discovered where it was located) as opposed to all the dead ends I came across online.
        Until tomorrow, my friends.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Social Proof Update!

So this was my email to Professor Insalaco and here is her response.


Erasmus is a very good place to start, especially his work on the Praise of Folly. He employs a lot of classical allusions in that piece, as well as some allusions to the comedia del arte that was popular in the Italian middle ages and Renaissance. The mixing of those two tends also leads one to think of the passion plays that were also popular at that time. So, Erasmus definitely relies on both the Bible and the mythological tradition in his writing, using it to defend the Church.

I would also look at Montaigne's Essays. Although he leans more heavily on Classical models, he also combines Biblical and Classical references. He is interesting because his education was almost entirely humanistic, with little influence of the Church, which was rare at that time in France. So, he is at one extreme of the spectrum.

Another author is Thomas More and his Utopia. Many of the practices of the Utopian society can be seen in the Spartans of Greece. Again, his allusions are mainly Classical, but the story is being retold by Raphael Hythloday, so there are overtones of Christianity in his work. However, the Utopian society's religion, or lack thereof, is certainly far from Christianity. Although More's work is more Classical than Christian, More himself was a devout defender of the faith.

I would also look at some of the art at the time. Michelangelo's paintings of the Sistine Chapel are very interesting since they combine Classical and Biblical allusions simultaneously. He paints Sibyls next to Biblical prophets on the pendants of the ceiling. Moreover, Michelangelo paints many of his figures like Greek and Roman gods and goddesses in ancient statues. Also in the Vatican is a famous painting of the School of Athens by Raphael. Here there are no Biblical references, only pagan philosophers engaged in teaching and learning. Interesting that this painting appears in a chapel in the Vatican where Christian theologians were teaching, learning, studying and influencing Christian doctrine.

This topic is complex since there are no cut or dry answers. These artists and authors were mainly devout Christians who had studied the Classics and appreciated the ancient ideas. They also realized that art and literature have languages all their own. Much of that artistic language uses pagan symbols to convey ideas, even if they are Christian ideas.

Offhand I cannot think of anyone who is an authority on that subject, but a good place to start would actually be C.S. Lewis. His scholarly works cover the time period that you are talking about and he himself was a Christian dealing with the pagan tradition. I know that Bruce Young in the English department has done a lot of work on C.S. Lewis and Christian themes in English literature in general. I would contact him as well.

Good luck!

Sister Insalaco

And a second email a little bit later...


I just looked at my copy of the Praise of Folly, and I found some authors who are experts on humanism during that time period. I would research the writings of Robert M. Adams as well as Paul Oskar Kristeller. Mikhail Bakhtin may also have some research on your topic as well.

Hope that helps!

Sister Insalaco

Not all of this will work into my paper as I'm focusing on Milton but having ideas and examples from other people will definitely help to back my argument!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Professor Kerr is My Hero

I must admit I've been a bit pokey about getting my social proof for this paper. However, I recently heard back from Professor Kerr and his suggestions and thoughts were immensely helpful. I'd expressed my difficulties in finding secondary sources for my topic, as asked for his view on Christ's character in Paradise Regained. He responded:

For a thoughtful take on desire with respect to Paradise Regained, look at the Milton chapter in Ryan Netzley's Reading, Desire, and the Eucharist in Early Modern Religious Poetry. It's fairly theoretical, but quite good--and at minimum it should point you to other useful sources. 
As regards the Son in PR, I tend to think of him as the site of a complex meditation on the conditions of human freedom. Depth of character is not an analytic category to which I've given much thought with regard to this poem (which is not to say that doing so would be unworthwhile for you).

The book he mentioned isn't available at the library, but I found some excerpts on Google Books that were pertinent to my subject. Netzley writes, "In Milton's paradisal sinless Eucharist, the emphasis falls on desire, but not an achieved redemption or one forever repeatable ritual." I think this means that Milton intended the sacrament, and by extension other aspects of spirituality in the book, to be an act that could sate spiritual hunger. In addition, the phrase "achieved redemption" made me stop and think.

 I've been assuming that the characters I'm writing about all want redemption in their own way, and while I don't entirely agree with Netzley's assertion on this point I do see how the term is a little broad. Satan doesn't want redemption, he wants a kind of revenge. Christ has no need for it, and while Samson is placed in the text as a redemptive character he really yearns for forgiveness. I'm quite obviously still working it through, but Netzley's text has given me a few ideas for where to take my paper in its conclusion, as well as providing me with some excellent sources. So thank you Professor Kerr, I'd be lost without you.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Publication/Presentation Venues for John Milton

I've been looking into various presentation venues for my research on John Milton's Satan figure, and I've found a few outlets that look like they could be really positive:

Milton Society of America General Session on John Milton 
— MLA Conference 2014
This is an open call for papers on all topics pertaining to John Milton. They are looking for papers of eight-page or twenty-minutes, which is a tad bit short of what we're working toward, but I could definitely shorten it down for the submission. Papers are due by March 15, 2013.

Fall Stories Conference — 18th-19th June 2014
This conference, hosted at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, addresses the Fall from an interdisciplinary perspective and invites submissions from a broad range of disciplines. The location will likely preclude my personal participation, but they might be willing to facilitate a digital presentation. I still hope to submit in any case. The submission deadline is listed as March 31, 2013, but I'm checking to see if the year is a typo.

British Society for Literature and Science Conference — April 10-12, 2014
This conference, held at the University of Surrey, accepts papers addressing all aspects of literature and science, and while it's kind of a vague outlet for my research, it still might be a good venue. It looks like it has accepted a number of papers on Milton in the past, so my hope would be that it would this time as well. The only problem is that the submission deadline is this Friday, the 6th, so I would need to get a proposal together by then. Not sure whether that will be possible, what with research papers and everything else going on.
**UPDATE** 12/6/2013
I just submitted my project proposal for the BSLS Conference. It was kind of rushed because of time constraints, but in any case, here it is:
It has often been argued among Miltonic scholars that Paradise Lost's Satan figure represents the most dynamic character in the epic and in some sense thus fills the role of the “hero.” A great deal of debate has, of course, erupted over the notion of the Judeo-Christian devil as a hero, a complex, contemplative character deserving at times the reader's sympathy. And if, as some have suggested, Milton's Satan is just Satan—simply a reinterpretation of and creative expansion upon the Biblical or archetypal figure—then certainly Milton has done the reader a great disservice in spending nigh on one third of the epic investigating a fiendish brute from whom man can learn nothing. The reality is, however, that Satan's complexity and dynamicity lend to his character a degree of humanity that ultimately allows the reader to see his own condition within Satan's experiences—struggles which in many ways parallel and build upon the struggles of Adam and Eve following their expulsion from Eden. In this paper, I argue for the 'humanity' of Milton's Satan figure. Although Milton draws upon strong religious and archetypal currents in crafting his Satan figure in Paradise Lost, truly understanding the arch-fiend's character (and thus, the epic as a whole) requires that the reader decouple Satan's character from that of the archetypal Biblical adversary and view him instead as a representation of one of the graduated stages of mankind's fallen condition.

There were a bunch whose deadlines had already passed, but otherwise, that's all that I've found for now. Hopefully the weekend will provide me with some more time to look into this more.

A working thesis (finally)

At this point this is still a very rough thesis, but I think I finally have one that is able to move forward.  So I've mentioned in previous blog posts that I'm interested in looking at archetype of the "overreacher" in Milton's Satan.  Milton certainly didn't invent the overreacher, though his Satan has come to be perhaps the prime example of one, such that it would influence later works like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Byron's Manfred.  So here is my working thesis (more or less):  Milton followed the literary tradition of the overreacher (as seen in works like Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great and Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare's Macbeth, and the story of Icarus) in order to use it as a template to represent his personal experiences and the historical context that he had lived through.  It's interesting to look at Paradise Lost through the lens of the Cromwell, the Interregnum, and the Restoration.

This is what I have currently as far as a thesis.  If anyone has any research that they think might fit well with this, please let me know.

Social Proof: Professors and Communities

I'll admit I did drag my feet a bit when doing this since I was reluctant to contact people, but I'm glad I did. Otherwise, I wouldn't have seen some of the faults my argument may have. As far as social proof goes, I was able to find some great sources through different communities. I emailed a couple of professors, one being Joan S Bennett, a retired professor from the University of Deleware and Jeffrey Shoulson, a professor I found on To professor Bennett I sent this message: 

Social Proof Efforts, pt. 1

Social Proof thus far:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Social Interaction

First off, I don't know how my paper would have turned out if I hadn't done this process, but I know for sure that it wouldn't be as well-focused and well-informed. The sources I was able to attain from this process are more useful than the one's I had found on Milton. Now, the correspondence.

I got around to emailing two people, Dr. Vincent Blasi, a professor of Law at Columbia who wrote an article on Milton and the First Amendment. He hasn't emailed me back yet (and I'm really not sure he will), but this is the email I sent:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Social Proof and Preliminary Writing for Paradise Lost

It is interesting to note that in many
depictions of the fall, Satan is depicted
as neither man nor beast but rather as a
cross between the two.
I posted recently on my personal blog about my interaction with Harold Bloom as pertaining to my current research of Satan's humanity in John Milton's Paradise Lost. I had originally contacted Bloom based on some reading that I had done from an article by Paris Kaye, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he as well had responded to my query as of this last Saturday. I sent a similar email as I had sent Dr. Bloom, and Mr. Kaye sent me a number of different resources to look over as I go about formally drafting my research:
  • Bloom, Harold; Genius; Warner Books, 2002, pp 47-57. 
  • Jung, Carl G.; Answer to Job Fiftieth Anniversary Edition (trans. R.F.C. Hull); Princeton University Press, 2002 
  • Jung, Carl G.; Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: 2nd (second) Edition; Princeton Press, 1971.
Mr. Kaye additionally wrote:
Perhaps, some allusion to the Faustian legacy as presented by Christopher Marlowe (A.K.A. Dr. Faustus). Marlowe’s dramatic work is instructive not only because it was accessible to Milton (and arguably influenced Milton) but presents an anthropomorphic perspective in terms of deities ascribed human traits. Jung’s work, especially Answer to Job, delves into the psychology of a benevolent despotic deity and the archetypal duality of the collective unconscious.
It's interesting to me that though Mr. Kaye is not, as far as I can tell, a formal academic, his feedback was much more rigorous and helpful than was that of Dr. Bloom. I think it shows that sometimes our best resources are found in the most unlikely of places.

My Abstract: Re-Orienting Milton

So I found this Conference in Tokyo talking about East-West, cross-cultural ties in literature and art looking for papers due last week. Sooo... I sent in an abstract. Professor Burton and lots of family and friends helped a ton with the polishing, but here's the final product:

An oriental reading of Paradise Lost and other writings resolves certain longstanding paradoxes in Milton's great works and reorients readers to his initial and intended meaning. Such paradoxes have come about due to gradual changes in our own culture resulting in an ultimate disconnect from the original culture and paradigm of Milton's time and place. A specific cross-culture norm that existed in both the Far East and in the West at the time Milton was writing was a value placed on what Western culture now condemns and terms the "passive." After WWII, our culture shifted out of this value system while China remained the same, making our reading of Paradise Lost and other Miltonic works imperfect and biased. 

By valuing the passive in the same way as Eastern culture while reading Milton's great works, we not only eliminate some of the false assumptions on which the West's Anglocentric view has founded arguments about Milton's culture but also recover the intended meaning of his work. One such assumption is that heroism is parallel with action. This assumption is the foundation of the all too common Romanticizing of Satan in Paradise Lost. As Satan is the most active, ambitious character in Milton's work, many critics have made the mistake of setting him as a Romantic hero; however, acknowledging the centrality of passivity in Milton's work (and perhaps in the Christian message itself) undermines the romanticizing of Satan as a character. In other words, by Romanticizing Paradise Lost (or aligning it with the foreign and exotic), this de-Romanticizes Satan.

Keywords: Paradise Lost, Orientalism, Romanticism

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thoughts About Samson Agonistes

As I'm writing my paper, I've been struck by Samson Agonistes and its themes of freedom and redemption. It's so very easy to be caught up in the great epics of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and I must admit when we read this one I may or may not have skimmed portions of the text. However, as I write I'm finding the characters rather interesting, and I think they tie into my topic of appetite as character
development more that Satan or Christ.

Samson’s downfall is brought by a physical hunger, and his lust and sexual appetites are what lead to his chaining before the Philistines. Samson Agonistes is something of a cautionary tale, and an overview reading often places the titular character in what I see as the role of tragic redemption, a kind of "Oh, if only he had kept it in his pants" warning I imagine parents of the time reading to their children. But when considering things further I've come to interpret it a little differently. I think Milton uses Samson to illustrate the point that satisfying a need does not automatically make one happy or sated. Samson lusted, and his lust was filled, but he finds himself in a new position hungering for freedom and repentance.

Samson views his current condition as divine punishment, a sort of penance he must pay in order to receive that forgiveness. In book one Milton writes:

"...I must die
Betrayed, captivated, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this Heav'n gifted strength (32-26)."

He's stuck in a bit of a bind, but Milton shows that hope is not lost. While he must go through more servitude to gain forgiveness, it will eventually lead him to his freedom. His appetites, while they may take a while, will eventually be satisfied, and he will not be left hungering for a release from bondage. He got himself into this mess, but Milton shows how he can set himself free. Everything is a process and a cycle, and it is how the character deals with that cycle that shows his or her development.