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From Passion to Affection: Milton's System of Emotion in Paradise Lost



Does God have emotions? If so, how does one as a mortal gauge divine emotion? For what purpose(s) does God choose to be passible? These are the questions constantly pondered and debated by readers of the Bible in early modern England when emotion becomes a popular subject of treatises and pamphlets. While emotion, or passion, is almost unanimously considered by early moderns as one distinct negative capacity, the questions of divine passibility remain disputable. This debate naturally would not escape Milton, who holds absolute faith in his vocation as a prophetic bard. In Paradise Lost Milton explores divine emotion exclusive to the divine, angelic emotion shared by heavenly beings, corrupt passion unique to the fallen angels, and prelapsarian and postlapsarian emotion embodied by Adam and Eve. I argue Milton, consciously diverting from the theological convention and contemporary mainstream discourse on emotion, establishes a concept system of emotion. Distinguishing between affection and passion, Milton treats affection as pure sensation felt by the angelic hosts and God yet portrays passion as unruly disturbance of mind experienced by the satanic crew and the fallen mankind. Drawing upon the General System Theory, I argue Milton's versifications of affection, passion, and emotion can be read as his poetic attempt at building an open system of emotion in which each subsystem constituted by distinct emotion exists in close interaction to sustain the harmony of the system.

Parallel abstracts

基督教的上帝有情感嗎?基於何因上帝會選擇有情感?天使能感受情緒嗎?倘若能,凡人如何能忖度神聖超俗的情感(divine emotions)?以上問題正是前現代時期聖經的讀者經常思考與爭辯的焦點,同個時期情感(emotion)亦是多本專著與簡冊探討的主題。由於前現代人士普遍視情感為負面知能,並以源自希臘語與拉丁語的另一字passion稱之,神聖超俗的情感與凡俗情感(human passions)的存在引起當時知識界長期辯論。米爾頓既自認為背負先知使命的詩人,亦加入這場辯論。事實上,作者認為米爾頓在《失樂園》中建構了一完整的情感系統,當中包含了三個子系統,各處於三重位階但又處於互相密切作用的關係,三個子系統分別代表由天界中上帝與天使體現的完美、全主動性的情感,以當時論述慣用的affection一字表示。第二為地獄中撒旦與惡魔所展現的激越情感(passion),充斥心神紊亂(disturbances)與全被動性。第三子系統則在地球凡界上由亞當與夏娃所演繹的情感衰變,由於墮落,其近超俗情感(near-affection)產生負面質變。米爾頓在天使與人類的墮落時刻,強化情感知覺之剖析,以其對情感的獨到見解,重新詮釋了基督教中最受關注的題材。借用一般系統理論,筆者認為米爾頓悖於當時主流論述,對於上帝、天使與亞當、夏娃的情感面向深入描繪,其詩中建構之多元情感可詮釋為米爾頓建立一開放式的情感體系的嘗試,當中各情感子系統密切互動以維繫整個系統之和諧運作。


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