John Milton is an odd case. Paradise Lost is more central to the English literary tradition than any other single work in the canon; to be a poet at all, you had to contend with that scarily formidable thing. And yet, Milton is also an outlier in the mainstream–a political radical whose conceptions of categories such as gender, liberty, what it means to have a voice at all placed him athwart received conceptions of what literature should be. Taken together, such contradictions suggest the possibility of something alien and perhaps seismic at the very core of our literary tradition. We’ll focus on Paradise Lost, though gathering around that poem a few other of Milton’s works (“Lycidas,” “Areopagitica”). But we also bring to bear a range of recent critical and theoretical writing both to illuminate the poem and to discern how the poet remains a durable and telltale symptom of the discipline of literary studies today.
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: one 6- to 8-page paper, one 10- to 12-page paper, several shorter writing assignments, and active seminar participation
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preference: seniors, English majors
Distributions: Division II;
Distribution Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under ENGL; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under REL
Attributes: ENGL Pre-1700 Courses; ENGL Literary Histories A