ENG 260 Milton

Sharon Seelig, M W F 10:00 AM-10:50 AM


John Milton's reputation—as the most brilliant and demanding poet of his era, a powerful influence on later British and American writers, and a difficult human being—may intimidate rather than attract today's readers. But Milton also described poetry as "simple, sensuous, and passionate," and his own work is as richly beautiful and satisfying as any in English. A man of contradictory talents and impulses, Milton has been called a political radical and an arch conservative, a misogynist and a poet of companionate marriage, a defender of the faith and a grand heretic, an advocate of human dignity and an apologist for Judeo–Christian patriarchy, a great synthesizer of classical and biblical traditions and someone who departed from and reshaped conventions.

In an attempt to find the reality behind these conflicting accounts, we will study Milton's development as a poet and craftsman in many genres—pastoral, sonnet, masque, ode, epic, drama and prose—with particular emphasis on his major poems, Paradise LostParadise Regained and Samson Agonistes. We'll observe his self–discovery and self–presentation; learn something about the political, religious and literary context in which he wrote; become aware of the conventions available to him and the use he made of them; and aim at understanding the ways in which his concerns resemble ours and depart from them. Our goal is intellectual encounter, informed judgment and, finally, pleasure.

There will be a good deal of discussion and some lecture. Written work will include a number of informal responses, two papers and a final examination.