Friday, September 28, 2007

Sympathy for some devils...

Satan Unbowed
(Image from IndyPlanet)

One of the scholars who posts to the Milton List -- Margaret Thickstun, the Elizabeth J. McCormack Professor of English at Hamilton College (Clinton, New York) -- left this message today:
A student of mine has produced a graphic novel version of Book 1 of Paradise Lost (24-pages, three-colors, professionally printed) that is available for $3.13 at IndyPlanet, if anyone is interested. I will be bringing copies to Murfreesboro as well, where I will also be talking about the project and process -- a very interesting pedagogical experience. Here's the link to see the cover.
Or you could just look above at the image of Satan in all his borrowed glory. A view of Satan falling from that glory is accessible through Hamilton College, which also tells more about Stephen Orlando, the student and graphic artist himself:
As a recipient of last year's Steven Daniel Smallen Memorial Fund for Student Creativity Grant, Orlando started working on his first self-published book, a graphic novel adaptation of Milton's Paradise Lost: Book One. While completing the 24-page anthology, Orlando worked closely with Hamilton Professor of English Margie Thickstun who helped check his script for accuracy. Thickstun plans to present the finished book at this year's national Conference on John Milton, to be held in October in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Orlando seems to have collaborated with a number of other students: Hugh Vogt, Blake Wilkie, Matty Ryan, and Jeff Spokes. Or so the Indyplanet webpage says. By the way, here's the IndyPlanet blurb for John Milton's Paradise Lost:
Follow Satan as he is cast out of heaven and raises himself and his army from the lake of fire. When all appears lost for him, it is the strength of his army's support that renews Satan's drive as he establishes his kingdom in Hell, and discovers a new purpose in life: the constant opposition of good.

Having raised an army in Heaven and lost the battle against his creator, Satan vows an eternity of revenge. From the ashes of his former defeat he is renewed with his goal of tainting all that his creator has molded, and sets his sights on the fledgling work called Earth.
My children adore graphic novels, so they'd doubtless love this one, too. At only 3 dollars and 13 cents, it may be too cheap to pass up, so I may have to get them a copy. I just hope that it doesn't raise too much sympathy for the devil, in whose rebellion against authority they just might glimpse a dim reflection of their own little rebellions against my authority.

Speaking of sympathy for outcasts, I confess to having felt a twinge of sympathy for President Ahmadinejad himself despite my having absolutely no sympathy for his views and my having been opposed to Columbia University's invitation for him to speak -- and I see that I'm not alone in thinking that Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, stepped across an important line last week by inviting Ahmadinejad to speak as a guest but then openly insulting him as "a petty and cruel dictator" who is "either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated."

The conservative Stewdog, of What's the Rumpus, had this to say:
I read the reports of the event and frankly am just as troubled by the treatment of "Rock My Dinner Shed" as I am by Columbia's decision to invite him. If you are going to invite a head of state to your campus, he is your guest and no matter how despicable he might be, he is entitled to be treated with courtesy and respect. The opening remarks and the behavior of the University's representatives were anything but civil. In my opinion, the guy deserves all he gets, but there is a time and a place. Columbia is clueless!
And the liberal Jacob T. Levy, of the New Republic's Open University, expressed similar misgivings:
I hesitate to say this ... because there's an obvious sense in which Lee Bollinger is the hero of the hour, ... but I can't get over the sense that he did exactly the wrong thing. One can refuse to invite. One can invite, and treat courteously, while relying on the general principle that such an invitation does not imply endorsement of the views expressed. But I'm not sure that inviting-and-insulting is the right thing to do; I was astonished to find myself in a bit of sympathy with Ahmadinejad's objections in the name of hospitality. The rules of hospitality are of a very different kind from the rules of intellectual discourse and debate -- but they're old and deep rules, not conditional on the extramural behavior or character of the guest, and I'm very uncomfortable with seeing them thrown overboard.
Stewdog and Levy are right, and Levy speaks the truth especially well: the rules of hospitality are old and deep rules, not to be lightly tossed aside.

I might point out that on this score, the Muslim world is usually far more sensitive than Westerners, for Muslims are famously hospitable, and I suspect that they'll remember this gratuitous lack of hospitality on Bollinger's part.

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At 5:36 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Hm. I warm to this graphic version as much as I warmed to a recent Manga version of "Romeo and Juliet". I struggle with this concept, which to me is neither literature nor art. I feel that I should liberally embrace it, but fail to do so.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I thought that you might not like it much. I'd have to see more myself, though I'm not much interested in graphic novels, but I think that my kids would like it, and if it would get them more interested in the original Paradise Lost, well ... okay.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was foolish inviting him in the first place. Ahmadinejad was handed a media coup which he is well capable of exploiting. Remember the captured British frigate, name-rank-serial number-star sign, that one, how he fitted them out with new suits and gave them going away presents. A university is not the place to be discussing Holocaust denial, it is not a fit subject for discussion there or perhaps anywhere. To compound it they claimed to be a centre of Jewish studies so to the folks at home it will be obvious that he was mugged by a band of Jews. Did the State dept. not vet the President's speech?

At 4:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Right, he shouldn't have been invited. Columbia could only lose prestige, and Ahmadinejad could only gain it.

And then to insult? Ever since the 60s, people seem to think that insults are clever. In my callow youth, I thought so, too, but isn't Bollinger old enough to understand the importance of courtesy? Ask hard questions, yes, but don't engage in personal attacks.

Jeffery Hodges

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