In addition to our blogging, BCC permas do occasionally write other, non-internet type things. If you’re interested in witnessing this strange phenomenon, I will be giving a talk, “Milton and the Anonymous Authority of De doctrina Christiana,” next Tuesday, March 11, at BYU. It will take place at 3pm in B042 JFSB. Here is an abstract:
The recently renewed controversy over the authorship of De doctrina Christiana, the Latin theological treatise generally ascribed to John Milton since its discovery in 1823, is bound up in questions of authority. The treatise’s connection to the author of Paradise Lost gives it an authority that it would otherwise not enjoy, and to challenge the authorship is, in these terms, to challenge the treatise’s authority. The treatise, however, contains its own meditations on authority, and I will contend that these complicate the terms in which the authorship debate has been carried out. Specifically, the author uses scripture to authorize himself, but then uses this authority to authorize scripture. These complex authority relations come sharply into focus in places where the treatise deviates from its standard Latin Bible, Junius-Tremellius-Beza—especially in those rare cases where the deviation moves the Latin farther away from the original languages. Such deviations become especially problematic in light of the fact that the treatise invites readers to scrutinize it carefully, to be persuaded in the end only by the clarity of scripture. I will argue that De doctrina Christiana aims for an ideal reader who claims the same authority as its author. The effect of this is to render its authority anonymous, by fully subverting the possibility of treating John Milton as a religious idol. Therefore, although I remain convinced that Miltonic authorship of the treatise is the historical probability, I submit that on its own terms the treatise demands to be read as though he had nothing to do with it.
I’d love to see you there. (Meanwhile, I’ve promised the PTB a post relating some of this stuff to the Joseph Smith Translation. I guess one never really does escape from blogging.)