Experimental Criticism / Listening to Milton / Sam Bozoukov

Illustration by Fran_kie

This cluster on “experimental criticism” grew out of a graduate seminar on this topic that took place at Harvard in the fall of 2021. All the essay contributions to the cluster bear some relation to the course, whether as revisions to participants’ final projects or as pursuits of experimental practices explored and initiated there. To register the collaborative pedagogic origins of this project, in lieu of a typical introduction, we have provided an annotated syllabus, with snapshots of participants’ reflections on the semester’s readings and discussions footnoted at the bottom of the page. You are invited to click on any of the numbered footnotes scattered throughout the syllabus to jump to a specific annotation. In addition to offering a window into our individual responses to the course readings, we hope that the annotations provide you with a collective context for the essays to follow.

Within the cluster, you will find experimentation that takes many forms: Yoojung Chun’s choose-your-own-adventure rumination on the constancy of parental grief, as depicted by the intersections between the art video game “That Dragon, Cancer” and the 14-century Middle English poem Pearl; Marie Ungar’s investigation of the category of “cringe,” what it might look like if Susan Sontag and Erving Goffman joined forces; Elinor Hitt’s encounter with the “kinesthetic empathy” inspired by the choreography of Blondell Cummings; William Martin’s essay/fiction hybrid, describing a senior named Dexter’s spectral encounter with the wisdom of Charles Waddell Chesnutt in his university’s archive; Harry Hall’s poignant parody of academese, presented in the form of a futuristic academic lecture on the film Call Me By Your Name, in a 2052 edited volume; Sam Bozoukov’s paratactic account of learning to listen to literature—and to life’s unpredictable lessons—through Milton. Accompanying our cluster as a special feature is a questionnaire that was sent to several of the leading author-critics on our syllabus, requesting their thoughts on the status of disciplinary experiment today. The responses we received, from Charles Bernstein, Samuel R Delany, Wai Chee Dimock, Eric Hayot, Emily Ogden, and Paul Saint-Amour, are a trove of useful references, reflections, examples, and qualifications.

—Beth Blum

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“For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are, nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them”
—John Milton, Areopagitica.1

“My Celestial Patroness…
Brings it nightly to my ear”
—John Milton, Paradise Lost.2

“More is meant than meets the ear”
—John Milton, “Il Penseroso.”3

“The index of the pleasure of the Text, then, is when we are able to live with Fourier, with Sade. To live with an author does not necessarily mean to achieve in our life the program that author has traced in his books…it is a matter of receiving from the text a kind of fantasmic order….
the pleasure of the Text also includes the amicable return of the author”
—Roland Barthes, Sade/Fourier/Loyola.4

“It must all be considered as if spoken by a character in a novel—
or rather by several characters”
—Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes.5

I was 20 when I first met Milton,
when I first fell for Milton’s example
of straining to hear the unheard—to see
the future—when

“in evil hour thou didst give ear.”6

No author in the English canon is
as fixated on foresight and fashioning
a prophetic-poetic self-image
as Milton, the blind bard.7 Foresight is how
Milton answers the question behind his
magnum opus—how can free will exist
in a universe overseen by an
omniscient God?8 It is also how he
envisioned his poetic ascendance
25 years before the first printing
of Paradise Lost (1667), as he relates in
The Reason of Church Government (1642): leaving

“something so written to aftertimes,
as they should not willingly let it die.”9

Even nine years earlier (1637), during his
time at Cambridge, Milton asserts that in

“old experience,”

he would

“attain
to something like Prophetic strain.”10

It was this perplexing attachment, his
ineluctable, vexing power11

“to see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight,”12
“then sing of secret things that come to pass,”13
“to trace the ways
Of highest Agents,”14
“and justify the ways of God to man,”15

that seduced me, a childish 20-year-
old with ostentatious fantasies of
far-reaching renown and incandescent
success. Milton’s bashless attempt to seize
sacrosanct power, brazenly claiming
his place in a line of Promethean
blind poets who,16 in seeing the future, showed
how we really could be

“as Gods,
Knowing both Good and Evil as they know.”17

Thus I believed I had lighted on some

“intellectual food,”18

some

“sciental sap, derived
From nectar, drink of Gods,”19

and

“his fraudulent temptation…
all impassioned thus began.”20

“The question to be addressed is not whether we should be free or bound
but whether we are well or poorly bound
—Bruno Latour, “Factures/Fractures.”21

It had been a year and a half since my
high-school girlfriend and I broke up. Though we
split amicably, I was, as much as
I labored not to admit it, downcast.
My subconscious sadness raised, however,
the delight of something I had always
loved, but now

“ingorg’d without restraint”:22

music.23 Sauntering with my earphones on
the highest volume, in mild May when the
jacarandas bloomed and dropped purple rain,
I felt like an indomitable cat,
absorbing the world without being of it.
As I walked in this garden of earthly
delights, this paradise found, alone with
my music

“virtue unassay’d,24
“yet possible to swerve,”25

I met

“the guileful Tempter.”26

“And so I ought not to hesitate to recognize that
so long as it is animated by this vital inbreathing inspired by the act of reading,
a work of literature becomes (at the expense of the reader whose own life it suspends)
a sort of human being, that it is a mind conscious of itself
and constituting itself in me as the subject of its own objects”
—Georges Poulet, “Phenomenology of Reading.”27

When I first heard about Paradise Lost,
I knew I had to read it the moment
I learned it was a retelling of the
Genesis story. I spent my childhood
attending a Baptist church where members
of the congregation often attacked
Eve for ruining human existence,
since, of course, we’d still be in Eden had
she not eaten the fruit. This complaint was
odd to me considering Adam ate,
too. Yet the church had deeply influenced
my love of music, as it frowned upon,
and outright prohibited, secular
songs, unwittingly teaching me that
“freedom of listening is,” as Roland
Barthes claims, “as necessary as freedom
of speech.”28 The church also manufactured
my first ecstatic experience, when
I wept to music under brilliant blue
lights. I was a freshman in high school
attending a youth-Christian conference.
It was the last day, and the last song the
band played quieted into a rhythmic
hum of long, hollow whoas.29 What started as
a low, monastic mumble, became a
frenetic, preternatural sea of
voices, as if our selves had washed away
into a gospel of universal
harmony.30

“Through mine ear dissolve me into ecstasies
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.”31

It was maybe 20-minutes long, but
my sense of time was annihilated—
at some point, I sobbed unconsolably
as I saw my friend in tears coming to
embrace me. It felt as though my soul
had been ripped, atom by atom, from my
body. I would not forsake my church’s
faith until three years later, perhaps due,
in part, to my desire for another
enthusiastic transfiguration.
I would not find it again, however,
in music—but in writing on music.

“That two-handed engine at the door
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.”32

Though I anticipated falling for
Milton’s spectacular epic, it was
his younger, minor works, written when he
was my age, that

“beguiled”33

me. Hearing

“the sound
Of rustling leaves”34

as I read Milton under trees in the
golden afternoon sun (my favorite
way to read, as it always led to

“mazy error”),35

I first heard audiophilic text through
Milton’s “At a Solemn Music.” As I
read the poem, I was dumbstruck simply
because it never occurred to me that
one could write about music, precisely
because it stupefies, as it speaks its
own, language, like silence. But as I read
again, I heard poetry’s musical,
magical quality (which I had heard
only in novels), especially the
seduction of serpentine sibilance.36
Each line of the poem contains two or
more |s| sounds, besides line 26, but
the most striking sibilance occurs in
the first two:

“Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav’n’s joy,
Sphere-born harmonious Sisters, Voice and Verse.”

Here Milton first led me to musica
universalis, the music of the
stars. At the time, unrelated to my
interests in Milton and music, I was
concurrently captivated by space—
air-headedly, my callow mind longed to
linger above the clouds and wonder in

“high exaltation.”37

In singing about space and sound, it was
like Milton had plumbed through time, through the breaths
between each word of this poem and

“pluck’t”38

a chord within my soul:

“And indeed why should not the heavenly bodies
produce musical vibrations? …What though no one
on earth has ever heard that symphony of stars?
Is that ground for believing that everything beyond
the moon’s sphere is absolutely mute and numb
with torpid silence? …On the contrary, let us blame
our own impotent ears, which cannot catch the
songs or are unworthy to hear such sweet strains.”39

Though I didn’t weep like I did five years past,
my life was forever changed by hearing.

“Thou shalt hear and learn the secret power
Of harmony in tones and numbers hit
By voice or hand, and various-measur’d verse…
To sage Philosophy next lend thine ear.”40

Even as I was taken by Milton’s

“celestial consort”41

I was

“as one whose drouth
Yet scarce allay’d still eyes the current stream.
Whose liquid murmur heard new thirst excites.”42

Through Milton’s words I was reminded of
literature’s revelatory force,
feeling the

“rousing motions”43

I once felt when my freshman-year high school
English teacher, who had always taught with

“all Heart,”44

climbed on top of our room’s center table
to motion the light that had fallen on
George Milton’s solitaire deck in Of Mice
and Men, symbolizing, as my teacher
professed, truth.

“The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.”45

It was Milton who persuaded me that
a life of literature would feed my
growing appetite for knowledge through his
Prolusion VII, a speech delivered
in Latin for his master’s degree, on
why “Learning Makes Men Happier than Does
Ignorance”:

“There nothing can be rightly considered as contributing
to our happiness unless it somehow looks both to
that everlasting life as well as to our life as citizens
of this world. Contemplation is by almost universal
consent the only means whereby the mind can set
itself free from the support of the body and concentrate
its powers for the unbelievable delight of
participating in the life of the immortal gods.”46

And so was laid the

“fair foundation whereon to build”

my

“ruin.”47

Learning that learning is, above all, the
means to cognitive liberty—ever
lasting joy—I was wholly under the
influence of Milton’s power, feeding
on that which feeds

“at once both body and mind.”48

“The eye by which I see God is the same eye by which He sees me”
—Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text.49

I was as one

“with wine, jocund and boon”
“through expectation high
of Knowledge,”
“God-head”

not far from my

“thought”50

when I read Milton’s sonnet on turning
23:

“How soon hath time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol’n on his wing my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career
But my late spring no bud or blossom show’th,
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arriv’d so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu’th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be in strictest measure ev’n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Times leads me, and the will of Heav’n:
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great task-Master’s eye.”

Without having fully read Paradise
Lost yet, I was arrogant enough to
go one step further than William Blake; I
was convinced that Milton was not only
a true poet, but that he was also
of the Devil’s party and he knew it.51
Time is Milton’s Satan, the winged, fallen,

“first grand Thief”52

who “cometh not, but for to steal, and to
kill, and to destroy” our lives with age,53
who with his

subtle approach”

is the

“subtlest beast of all.”54

Milton unabashedly embraces
Time after the sonnet’s volta. Time leads
him first, then follows the will of Heaven.55
Though I hadn’t entirely read Milton’s
epic, there was something about “How Soon
Hath Time” that took me back to the few lines
I did know by heart: when Satan rallies
his legion after their inglorious
routing by God, arriving in hell:

All is not lost.”56

Although what Milton’s 23-year-old
speaker declares is a desire

“to submit or yield”

to God’s will (precisely the opposite
of Satan’s hellish resolution), I
heard in the sonnet’s final lines something
like Satan’s

“unconquerable will”:

a

“courage”57

to patiently bear the slings and arrows
of his outrageous task-Master—All is
as ever—dutifully following his
life’s unknowable lot.

“Does liberty consist of living without a master or without mastery?”
—Bruno Latour “Factures/Fractures.”58

More errant than suggesting that Milton
sympathized with Satan, a marker of
my fallenness as a reader, was how
I sympathized with Milton. Like Milton,
at 20 I had no buds or blossoms—
no facial hair—another victim of
late spring. Upon reading Milton’s Comus,
I learned that Milton’s more feminine look
was part of why his classmates donned him with
the nickname: “the Lady.” Throughout my life,
bullies

(“that their asininity could be shed”)59

often mocked me with misogynistic
monikers because I was soft-spoken.
Though I was not, like Milton, a fiery
advocate of chastity, nonetheless
we both principally felt our semblances
to be mismatched with how we felt on the
inside—as if we were meant for grander
things, whether the world could see it or not.
As a 20-year-old still searching for
my vocation, it was Milton who called,

“and his words replete with guile
Into”

my

“heart too easy entrance won…
Yet rung of his persuasive words impren’d
With Reason, to”

me

“seeming, and with Truth.”60

What I heard was tripartite: first, that I
was to pursue teaching literature
as a professor, for such a career
was a lifetime of learning and, clearly,
happiness; second that I was to write
a renown and brilliantly successful
epic poem in my twenty-third year,
though I had never so much as written
a poem before; third, that I was to
write this poem as a bearded hermit
in the countryside of South Korea…61

My

“eyes how op’n’d”

my mind

“how dark’n’d.”62

As if my life was some piece of fiction,
without the least effort to close read I
dared to know my life’s unknowable lot,
inventing a strange future for myself
all because I wanted to exercise
an agency akin to Milton’s—to
have God-like control over my life.

“The new project of emancipation…obliges us not to confuse
living without control with living without attachments”
—Bruno Latour, “Factures/Fractures.”63

I was wholly hypnotized by Milton’s
prophetic self-actualization,
believing the reverberations of
his younger works in Paradise Lost to
be unimpeachable proof of his God-
likeness.

How soon hath thy prediction, Seer blest
Measur’d this transient World, the Race of Time…
whose end no eye can reach.”64

It never occurred to me, however,
that Milton could have simply remembered
what he said, what he believed, as a youth.
Milton was not a prophet because he
foresaw futurity, but because he
fore-heard the wisdom of his future self
in retrospective anticipation.
What he heard nightly from his muse as he
composed his epic, which filled his ears with
such rich revelation that each morning
he complained to his amanuensis
that he wanted to be milked,65 was of the
past delights he hoped to still have

(“such delight till then, as seemed
In Fruit [he] never tasted”)66

regrets he never wished to feel,
a providential perspective that now

“more pleas’d my sense
Than smell of sweetest Fennel, or the Teats
Of Ewe on Goat dropping with Milk at Ev’n
Unsuckt of Lamb or Kid, that tend thir play.”67

I am 26 and, as the reader
can reasonably predict, the epic
poem did not happen, though I did live,
for a year and a half, in a stunning
mountain town in South Korea. Life laughed,
took pity, and sent

“heav’ns last best gift”:68

my wife, who was serendipitously
working there at the same time I was. As
I considered abandoning my dreams
of professorship, she was the reason
I applied to graduate school. In the
second year of my program, while she was
pregnant, she cared for me when I received
treatments for stage four Hodgkin Lymphoma
and later when she gave birth to our

“sovran gift,”69

the most beautiful baby girl. It is
because of my wife that I believe

“all is best, though we oft doubt
What th’unsearchable dispose
Of highest wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.”70

If I have learned anything from Milton
so far (having met someone who seemed to
have revealed me to myself) it is that

“man’s first disobedience”71

consists in not listening properly
(from dis “not,” ob “to,” audire “listen”)
to alterity, of Adam to Eve,
of Eve to Satan, of I to Milton.

“One gains alterity from attachments”
—Bruno Latour, “Factures/Fractures.”72

Against Milton’s racist, patriarchal,
and narrow-minded beliefs (all of which
I became more aware as it wore off

“the force of that fallacious Fruit”),73

Eve’s heroic act of aurality,
of listening to that which is wholly other,
serves as a clarion call to hear all
voices, for literature itself, in
all its kaleidoscopic soundscapes, is
an exercise in hearing.74 Though I now
make it a point to abandon any
fantastical pretensions to foresight,
as the ear is the center of the heart,
so I hope that my future self hears me
as I listen, forgiving me for

“what once I was, and what am now.”75

“‘Yes, Mafalda, my daughter, I am effectively held by my cigarette,
which makes me smoke it…I do not control it any more than it controls me.
I am attached to it, and if I cannot hope for any kind of emancipation from it,
then perhaps other attachments will come to substitute this one’”
—Bruno Latour, “Factures/Fractures.”76

“The Amateur (someone who engages…without the spirit of mastery or competition),
the Amateur renews his pleasure (amator one who loves and loves again);
he is anything but a hero…”
—Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes.77

“Quests for my own word are in fact quests for a word that is not my own,
a word that is more than myself”
—Mikhail Bakhtin, “From Notes Made in 1970-71.”78

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I would like to thank Professors Beth Blum, Kelly Rich, and Namwali Serpell for their assiduous readings of and sagacious guidance in early versions of this piece. I would also like to thank Professor Gordon Teskey, Phoebe Braithwaite, my friends in this cluster, and my wife for their perspicacious edits of this more final version.

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This is part of the cluster Experimental Criticism. Read the other posts here.

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Endnotes

  1. (720). All quotations, cited parenthetically by abbreviated poem title, book, and line number, or by title of the prose work and page number, are from John Milton Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1957).
  2. (9.21,47). Milton’s invocation sounds like Carvaggio’s Saint Matthew and the Angel (1602). Similarly, Satan, in the form of a toad, conceives Eve’s dream by whispering into her ear (4.799-800).
  3. (“Il Penseroso,” 120).
  4. trans. Richard Miller (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 7–8.
  5. trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang), 119.
  6. The first words Adam says to Eve after they realize they have fallen (PL 9.1067).
  7. Milton composed his last three epic works while blind, relating his verse to amanuenses.
  8. As if he were watching the sun set, God merely foresaw Adam and Eve’s fall without effecting it in any way.
  9. (The Reason of Church Government 688).
  10. (“Il Penseroso,” 173-4).
  11. The hyperlink goes to the first lecture of John Rogers’s Yale lecture series on Milton, where he characterizes Milton’s poetical power according to his revolutionary rhetoric. Hearing Rogers’s profound insights and oratorical finesse, a year after I met Milton, changed my life by inspiring a love of literary criticism.
  12. Milton’s speaker invoking light in Paradise Lost (PL, 3.54-5).
  13. Milton’s speaker from “At a Vacation Exercise,” composed when he was 19 (45). In search of “some graver subject,” Milton’s 19-year-old speaker further anticipates his older self in Paradise Lost, who relates that the epic’s “subject for heroic song/Pleas’d [him] long choosing, and beginning late” (“AVE,” 30; PL, 25-6). The two also have a predilection for sublime apostrophe: “hail native language, that by sinews weak/Didst move my first endeavoring tongue to speak” (“AVE,” 1-2); “hail holy light, offspring of heav’n first-born” (PL, 1). Milton’s characters often use “hail” to address others, but only Satan hails an abstract entity, like Milton’s speakers, when he greets hell with “hail horrors, hail/Infernal world” (PL,250-1).
  14. This is the “power” Satan says the fruit contains (PL, 9.680-3, my italics).
  15. Milton’s speaker in Paradise Lost (PL, 1.26, my italics).
  16. In the invocation of Paradise Lost book 3, Milton’s speaker reminds us of “two” blind prophets “equall’d with [him] in fate,” that is, blindness, and his wish to be “equall’d with them in renown” (3.33-4). He names the following four in order: Thamyris, Homer, Tiresias, and Phineus. All four prophets are Promethean figures. All four stole foresight from the gods for the benefit of humanity. All four were punished with blinding.
  17. (PL, 9.708-9).
  18. Eve’s characterization of the fruit (PL, 9.767), a perversion of Raphael’s admonition to Adam when he engorges the angel’s celestial stories: “knowledge is as food, and needs no less/Her Temperance over Appetite” (7.126-7).
  19. (PL, 9.837-8).
  20. (PL, 9.531, 678).
  21. “Factures/Fractures: From the Concept of Network to the Concept of Attachment,” Res (Cambridge, Mass.) 36, no. 36 (1999): 22, Latour’s italics, https://doi.org/10.1086/RESv36n1ms20167474.
  22. (PL, 9.792).
  23. The song I hyperlinked is one I replayed often then.
  24. (PL, 9.335, 340).
  25. (PL, 9.359).
  26. (PL, 9.567).
  27. New Literary History 1, no. 1 (1969): 59, https://doi.org/10.2307/468372.
  28. “Listening,” in The Responsibility of Forms, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 260.
  29. I could have hyperlinked live renditions of the song that had this “whoa” section, but something about watching the worshipping faces in those videos makes me feel as if I am the intruding “arch felon” when he first sneaks into Eden, gazing abjectly “into God’s Fold” (PL, 4.179, 192), compounded by the controversies surrounding this band and its affiliated church. For example, see Ailsa Chang’s “The Latest Controversies Surrounding the Collapse of Global Megachurch Hillsong,” NPR, March 30, 2022, sec. Religion, https://www.npr.org/2022/03/30/1089774578/the-latest-controversies-surrounding-the-collapse-of-global-megachurch-hillsong.
  30. How Friedrich Nietzsche characterizes Dionysian art in The Birth of Tragedy, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), 37.
  31. (“Il Penseroso” 164-6).
  32. (“Lycidas,” 130-1).
  33. (PL, 9.905).
  34. (PL, 9.519-28).
  35. How the river running through Eden is described (PL, 4.239). Error is meant to retain its Latin force of physical “wandering.” Stanley Fish argues that “error” is meant to lure readers into wrong judgements about Eden’s perfection. However, it should be noted that mazy’s primary definition is a “state of bewilderment,” signaling cognitive digression. See “Mazy, Adj.1,” in OED Online (Oxford University Press), accessed October 9, 2022, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/115366.
  36. Throughout his oeuvre, Milton endues sibilance with cosmic significance. His most noted example is the “universal hiss” Satan hears upon finishing his speech on ruining mankind, only to see and hear his demonic legion metamorphose into snakes (PL, 10.504-47). A proleptic antithesis of sibilance occurs in Milton’s first long poem, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity (1629), written when he was 21. Christ’s “reign of peace upon the earth began” when: “the Winds, with wonder, whist,/Smoothly the waters kiss’t,/Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,/Who now hath quite forgot to rave/While Birds of Calm sit brooding on the charmed wave” (OMCN, 63-9). Made up of bilabial glides, this example of sibilance mimics the sound of the wind, water, or a whisper, echoing God’s paradoxical first words upon creating the universe: “Silence, ye troubl’d waves, and thou Deep, peace,/Said then th’Omnific Word, your discord end” (PL, 7.216).
  37. (PL, 5.90). “High exaltation” is how Eve describes flying into the sky after eating the fruit in her dream, but, in Milton’s time, it could also refer to a planet’s, or in this case Eve’s, place in the zodiac. See “Exaltation, n.3,” in OED Online (Oxford University Press), accessed October 12, 2022, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/65560.
  38. Just as Eve plucks at the fruit of knowledge (PL, 9.781), Milton’s speaker in “Lycidas” comes “to pluck” the “harsh and crude” berries of myrtles and laurels with “fingers rude,” (“Lycidas,” 1-4).
  39. From Milton’s Latin college exercise Prolusion II, “On the Music of the Spheres” (603-4). The lines are translated by Phyllis Tillyard, but note the similarity with Satan’s “What though the field be lost?” (PL, 105). Such a rhetorical formulation makes sense for practice in the oratorical arts, with Satan tuning his temptation as “some Orator renown’d” (PL, 9.670). Further down the same page, Milton writes that “our impotence to hear this harmony seems to be a consequence of the insolence of the robber, Prometheus” (see footnote 17).
  40. Part of Satan’s final temptation to Christ in Paradise Regained (4.254-6, 272).
  41. (“At a Solemn Music,” 27).
  42. This simile characterizes Adam, who cannot get enough of Raphael’s heavenly stories (PL, 7.66-8. 126).
  43. How Samson describes his divine calling to break free from imprisonment in Samson Agonistes (1382).
  44. Milton’s angels are literally “all head, all, Eye, all Ear/All Intellect, All sense” and can transform into whatever “color, shape, or size” (PL 6.350-2).
  45. (“Lycidas,” 125).
  46. (Prolusion VII, 623).
  47. (PL, 4.521-22).
  48. (PL, 9.779). Because God “left arbitrary the dieting and repasting of our minds,” Eve’s sin lies more in her excessive pride than the act of consumption itself (Areopagitica, 727).
  49. trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975), 16.
  50. (PL, 9.789-793).
  51. “[Milton] was a true poet and of the Devils party without knowing it,” Plate 6 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in William Blake the Complete Illuminated Books (Thames & Hudson, 2009).
  52. Satan is twice likened to a “thief” when he first enters Eden (PL, 4.188, 192).
  53. (John 10:10 KJV). I was able to recognize this allusion because I had memorized the verse when I was going to a small youth men’s group in my church.
  54. “Subtle approach” is from the introductory argument of book 9, and Eve echoes Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (KJV).
  55. Rogers’s lecture on book 1 of Paradise Lost demonstrates that the word “first” is one of the most important words in Milton’s oeuvre, along with “or.” In the final two lines of his sonnet “O Nightingale,” Milton’s adolescent speaker similarly declares his allegiance first to secular forces, in this case classical mythology, and then to God: “Whether the Muse, or Love call thee his mate,[the nightingale’s]/Both them I serve, and of their train am I.”
  56. (PL, 1.106, my italics). See also God’s “all is not done” or Satan’s “all is not there it seems” (PL, 3.203, 4.24-5).
  57. (PL, 1.108).
  58. 29, Latour’s italics.
  59. Milton discusses his bullies and his nickname in his Prolusion VI “That Sportive Exercises are Occasionally Not Adverse to Philosophic Studies” (621). As William Shullenberger lucidly observes, Milton emphatically embraces chastity precisely because it allows him to transcend gender, which Milton treats discursively. See especially chapter six of Shullenberger’s Lady in the Labyrinth: Milton’s Comus as Initiation (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2008). Anticipating his identification to Tiresias in Paradise Lost as a blind prophet (see footnote 17), Milton here notes that he’s been rhetorically transformed into a woman as Tiresias was literally changed.
  60. (PL, 9.933-8).
  61. The various personal reasons for why I chose South Korea are impertinent.
  62. (PL 9.1053-54).
  63. 29.
  64. Adam to the archangel Michael, after he’s been given beneficent visions of futurity (PL, 12.553-6, my italics).
  65. This story and italicized quotation come from an early and anonymous biography of Milton (Hughes 1044).
  66. (PL, 9.787-8).
  67. How Satan describes the smell of the fruit to Eve (PL, 9.580-83).
  68. How Adam characterizes Eve before the fall (PL, 5.19).
  69. What Adam calls Eden before the fall (PL, 5.366).
  70. (SA, 1745-8).
  71. (PL, 1.1).
  72. 30.
  73. (PL, 9.1046).
  74. For more on sound’s role in literature, see Angela Leighton, Hearing Things: The Work of Sound in Literature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).
  75. Blind Samson in chains (SA 22). Compare to Satan’s “bitter memory/Of what he was, what is” (PL, 4.24-5).
  76. 27
  77. 52
  78. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), 149.