This course will introduce you to the major poetry and prose of one of the strangest, most controversial, and most fascinating writers in the English literary tradition. Contemporaries described John 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 readers 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 the disappointments of political revolution, the perversity of love, the contradictions of racial and religious identity, the limitations of human thought and language, and the difficulty of liking the Christian God. Over the semester, we will discuss the intersections of Milton’s formal, social, sexual, religious, and political innovations. Students will write a series of short papers leading up to a 10-page research paper.