John Milton

The goal of the
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 Lost, Paradise
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 youthful 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 exercise
asking you to map Paradise Lost in
time and space, 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,
John Milton: Complete Prose and Major

Lois Potter, A Preface to Milton, rev. ed. (2000).

Recommended (optional) 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).