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Milton

ENGL 739.301
instructor(s):
Tuesdays 9-12:00 pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major

 

This seminar will examine John Milton’s strange, controversial, and challenging poetry and prose. Contemporaries described Milton as both a prig and a libertine, a puritan and a heretic: his classmates at Cambridge called him “our Lady of Christ College,” while his political enemies deemed his blindness divine punishment for his wicked writings. Modern scholars have seen him as a revolutionary, a terrorist, a proto-feminist, a misogynist, a champion for individual liberty, and a religious reactionary. Given the wide range of topics that Milton discussed over his long and eventful life, such debate is hardly surprising. His poetry grapples with such subjects as a friend’s premature death, the incommensurability of human and divine ideas of justice, and the difficulty of knowing or understanding one’s own motives and desires. His prose argues variously for the right to divorce, the freedom of the press, the danger of Catholics, and justice of executing the king. Throughout his oeuvre, Milton’s style is as intricate and difficult as the issues he ponders, offering endless opportunities for insight and discovery. This semester, we will discuss the intersections of Milton’s formal, social, sexual, religious, and political innovations as consider the relation between aesthetics, gender, religion, and politics.