01:30 PM to 03:35 PM MTWR
Innovation Hall 209
Section Information for Summer 2019
I’m not going to lie. Milton’s poetry is difficult; the number of footnotes can be intimidating. After all, he wrote about 350 years ago, and for a select, highly educated, largely male audience. But….
Reading Milton has proven to be the high point of many an English major’s career.
Milton takes on the big questions, among them the origin of evil, the nature of just authority, and what he believes to be the fundamental differences between men and women. He’s a late 17thcentury Puritan (i.e., revolutionary Christian) who married three times and who narrowly escaped being executed himself for advocating that Charles I be beheaded as an unjust monarch. (Charles was indeed beheaded, and after the English Revolution, when monarchy was restored, the new king, Charles’ son Charles II, was none too happy about the poet’s role.) When Milton rewrites the story of Genesis in Paradise Lost, his effort to “justify the ways of God to men” in that epic poem raises as many questions as it answers. Why is his Satan so glamorous and appealing? Why is “Sin” a motherless female who has an incestuous relationship with her father, Satan? If God’s ways are really just, why does the Father appear so unloving and punitive? Is Milton’s God too much a tyrant--an unconscious echo of Charles I perhaps? What is Milton’s vision of daily life in Paradise? Why do his angels eat and seem to have sex? (Note they also can change sex.) Is Adam to blame as much as, or more than, Eve for the temptation and fall?
Thanks to Milton’s long, absorbing, and (admittedly) very weird poetry, we get into deep conversations in this class. Yes, Milton is hard work, but reading him can change the way you think—I can pay no higher compliment to an author. Plus the chance to read Paradise Lost and a few other texts intensively over a summer term will make the experience all the more compelling and vivid.
Requirements: three essays on assigned topics; one final examination; quizzes and discussion participation.