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

1 comment:

  1. So pleased to see he was kind enough to respond. Some good suggestions, even if not on point to your claim. Thanks for posting.