A course on the major poems of John Milton, with an emphasis on âParadise Lostâ and the theological and philosophical issues that it engages (then and now).
ENGL 328 John Milton: Radical Thought Then and Now
Instructor: Ed Snow
In this course we will focus on the major poems of John Milton--especially on Paradise Lost and the theological, political, and philosophical issues it engages (often heretically) in a time of social upheaval and civil war (Milton then). This will lead us to a close reading of Milton’s text that will activate all those errant tendencies in the poet’s work--iconoclastic, feminist, evolutionary, secular-humanist, open-ended, polysemic, deconstructive--that contradict the straight-down-the-middle sensibility (authoritarian, orthodox, patriarchal) that “Milton” canonically signifies (Milton now). In spite of all these “contexts,” our primary focus will be on the text itself, approached through a complex version of what is commonly known as “close reading.” The course will be thus be as much about how poetry works (especially contemporary poetry) as about Milton's particular strategies vis-à-vis doctrine and orthodoxy in Paradise Lost. We will be especially concerned with how issues of gender play out at the level of the poem’s minute particulars. (I was even tempted to name this course “Feminist Milton.”) Written work for the course will be intensive: there will be weekly short (3 page) assignments and two 7-page papers. There will be no final or midterm.
Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Fowler (distributed in class)
Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (Penguin) Misc. Critical Readings (xerox)