(This course
fulfills English major requirements for single-author OR pre-1700 courses, as
well as 400-level courses)


Milton  John Milton has been more controversial for a longer
period of time than any canonical writer in English literature, rankling
Catholics, Puritans, and Anglicans alike in his own century, Tories in the
eighteenth (e.g., Samuel Johnson), anti-Semites (Ezra Pound), conservatives
(T.S. Eliot), and feminists in ours.  He
has also been admired by writers as unlike as the Royalist John Dryden, the
revolutionary William Blake, the feminist scholar and critic Catherine Belsey,
the Christian C.S. Lewis, the Marxist Terry Eagleton, and all the great English
Romantic poets, for whom his example of political courage and poetic sublimity
was a model.  Author of some of the
classic passages of male chauvinism in world literature, he wrote Paradise Lostin an all-female household
and gave Eve the last word in his great poem. 
A fierce opponent of all authoritarians, he created a God in Paradise Lostthat many readers see as a
tyrant and a Satan whom others have found more impressively anti-authoritarian
than Milton himself.  The last and
perhaps most comprehensive of the great Renaissance writers of England, he drew
upon the entire Western literary tradition in his work, yet had Jesus dismiss
all secular literature as empty in his final epic, Paradise Regained.The
Beethoven of literature, he wrote his greatest works when blind after narrowly
escaping execution himself for supporting the execution of Charles I and the
dismantling of the Church and Parliament of England. The “no-spin
zone” of his work at its best would eloquently deride or condemn virtually
everything that passes for serious public commentary in these impoverished days.  We may not like everything we read, but none
of us will be able to deny the brilliance of the mind that wrote it. 


Milton’s world

This course will
explore the Miltonic universe, which means the world of early modern
middle-class and revolutionary England as well as the classical, Christian, and
Renaissance inheritance of Western culture that Milton, as the first great dead
white male liberal and the most important Puritan in British literature,
transformed into his own self-expression.  
We will study Milton’s works in relation to his life—and his wives—as
well as to the historical and ideological crises of the seventeenth century,
following the tripartite sequence that history determined would be his
extraordinary career:  early
quasi-Renaissance poetry, mature ideological treatises and sonnets, late epics
and drama


Course Requirements:

1. Critical
analysis of early poetry (4 –6 pages)

2.  Paper on Paradise
that incorporates some secondary criticism (6 –8 pages)

3.  Group oral and written reports on a prose
work not read by other members of the class

4.  Mid-term (closed book) and final exam (open

5.  Attendance and participation in discussions


Book required: 

John Milton, Major WorksOxford UP