My jocular character's gonna get me in trouble . . .
On the Milton List yesterday, one of the scholars asked for advice because a student was upset with John Milton's depiction of Eve's creation in Paradise Lost 8.465-466:
I have a student very distressed about Eve's being created from Adam's left rib.A number of scholars weighed in, some wondering if the student was female, so I attempted a lighthearted suggestion:
I assume a woman in distress (maybe a bad-hair day?).That last remark was prescient of me, for another scholar found my comment offensive:
Could she be comforted to realize that the heart is on the left and that in a prelapsarian state, there would surely be nothing sinister about a left rib.
You could also always quip that since God chose the left rib, then it was actually the right one, whereas the right one was in fact left. But I know from experience that my 'humor' doesn't always have the desired effect . . .
Perhaps we could refrain from blatant misogyny on this list. Nuanced, implied and "humourous" comments notwithstanding, a certain level of civility would enhance our professional discourse.I wasn't sure how to respond to that, but not wishing to cause anyone further distress, I posted to the list:
I'm sorry that my pun on tresses gave the impression that I hate women.I had briefly considered responding with an explicit reference to what Milton calls Eve's "wanton" tresses and a query about pre- and postlapsarian connotations of words in Paradise Lost, but I suspected that such a 'wanton' point might get me into further hot water. At any rate, I did receive a posted reply from the scholar:
Please do not mistake my post as personal nor implying "hatred." The discussion and comment in context, conveyed, to me, some degree of condescension and trivialization sufficient to devalue the inquiry. That's all.I had to wonder what the scholar meant by "misogyny" if not "hatred of women," but I decided to merely respond -- lest my point be inadvertently obfuscated by linguistic equivocacy -- with the following clarification:
Humor aside, my more serious point was to question the assumption that "left" necessarily means sinister. In prelapsarian Eden, would a left rib -- near the left-positioned heart -- be anything but good?Unfortunately, we live in a postlapsarian world, so my words resound like ambiguous scoffing and my humor is fallen flat.