John Milton

The goal of this course is to begin to understand, and maybe also to appreciate, one of England’s best non-dramatic poets. Tall order? Sure. But here’s how we’ll do it.

We will begin with Milton’s life and times and then consider his first good poem (“On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”), his early masterpieces (“L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso,” Comus, “Lycidas”), a bit of his voluminous prose work (Of Education and Areopagitica), and his mature masterpieces (Paradise LostParadise Regained, Samson Agonistes). In 1642, when he was thirty-three years old, Milton dared to hope that he might “perhaps leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die.” Milton’s mid-life wish has come true: more than three centuries after Milton died in 1674, we are still reading him. In this course, we will discover why we are still reading him.

Requirements: A fair amount of reading, some short reaction letters and also short responses (posted on the class’s Laulima site), a brief (two pages) essay on one of Milton’s sonnets, a short (four pages) essay on the “Fair Infant” ode, a long (at least six pages) essay on Paradise Lost, an individual project chosen from a list of possibilities (e.g., an exercise asking you to map Paradise Lost in time and space; a marathon reading of Paradise Lost), an oral report on a critical article about a Milton text, a final examination, faithful class attendance, and frequent class participation.

Required Texts

Merritt Y. Hughes, ed., John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose (1957).

Recommended Texts

Dennis Danielson, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Milton, 2nd ed. (1999).

Isabel Rivers, Classical and Christian Ideas in English Renaissance Poems:

                   A Student’s Guide, 2nd ed. (1994).