Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
What does the Genesis story of creation and temptation tell us about gender, about heterosexuality, and about the origins of evil? What is the nature of God, and how can we account for that nature in a cosmos where evil exists? When is rebellion justified, and when is authority legitimate? These are some of the key questions that engaged the poet John Milton, and that continue to engage readers of his work.
In 1667, Milton published what he intended both as the crowning achievement of a poetic career and a justification of God's ways to man: an epic poem which retold and reimagined the Biblical story of creation, temptation, and original sin. Even in a hostile political climate, Paradise Lost was almost immediately recognized as a classic, and one fate of a classic is to be rewritten, both by admirers and by antagonists. Modern readers have continued to contend with both Milton's text and its sources.
In this class, we will read Paradise Lost alongside works of 20th century fantasy and science fiction which rethink both Milton's text and its source: Perelandra and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) and the trilogy His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman). As well as glancing at selections from Milton's own writings on divorce and freedom of the press, we will also engage with a variety of modern critical perspectives on Milton (C.S. Lewis, Stanley Fish, Patricia Parker, William Kerrigan, and others) and on Genesis (Elaine Pagels, Mary Nyquist).
Ten are assigned - you can skip two without penalty. These journals should be informal but thoughtful - don't summarize (unless you find it useful for yourself) but do include questions of any kind, responses of any kind, and requests for things you would like to have clarified or more generally discussed in class. Consider the journals a way to keep track of your thinking as well as to try out ideas for the two more formal essays. I will respond to them but generally with comments rather than with evaluation.
The first essay, although it can have larger ambitions, will in essence be a close reading of a passage from Paradise Lost. Working through a short piece of the poem more intensively is meant to help everyone get comfortable with the language before the longer paper; naturally to provide practice in close reading and also to give me a chance to get a look at your writing and give you a sense of my expectations. (These essays can be revised if you are not happy with the first version).
The longer essay, due at the end of term and counting for half your final grade, can be on any of the texts we have read and will be built in several stages. Completion of each of these will comprise some part of the final grade. Part of the exercise will be to read and use secondary sources, including preparation of a critical bibliography and we will discuss how to do this earlier in the semester. (Improper use of sources, of course, may constitute plagiarism - see the section's policy below). Work on the seminar papers will include multiple opportunities to get feedback and ideas from both your colleagues and from me before submitting the final version for a grade. Most importantly, we'll spend the penultimate week of the semester discussing your work and I will also provide comments on the individual drafts.
As is usual in seminar settings, you are required to attend all class meetings and are expected to take an active and informed part in discussions. As well as occasionally leading off discussions, I will assign each of you a piece of Milton criticism to present to the rest of the class.
Plagiarism—use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available at the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.
|SES #||TOPICS||KEY DATES|
|1||Introductions: first 100 lines of Paradise Lost|
Milton. Paradise Lost, Book I
Lewis. Preface to Paradise Lost, chapters 7-8
Paradise Lost, Book II
Lewis. Preface to Paradise Lost, chapters 9-11
|4||Lewis. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe|
Paradise Lost, Book III,
Paradise Lost, Book IV
Nyquist. "Gynesis, Genesis, Exegesis," Parts I-IV
Paradise Lost, Book IV (cont.)
Nyquist. Parts V-VII
|9||Lewis. Perelandra (cont.)|
Paradise Lost, Book V
Fish. "The Milk of the Pure Word"
|11||Philip Pullman. Golden Compass|
Paradise Lost, Book VI
Kerrigan. "'One First Matter All': Spirit as Energy"
|13||Pullman. Golden Compass||Short essay due|
Paradise Lost, Book VII
Rumrich 1. "Uninventing Milton"
———. "Radical Heterodoxy"
|Journals on Milton or Pullma due|
|15||Pullman. Subtle Knife||Journals due|
Paradise Lost, Book VIII
Flesch. "The Majesty of Darkness"
|17||Pullman. Subtle Knife (cont.)||
Proposal and bibliography due
Paradise Lost, Book IX
Gross. "Satan and Romantic Satan"
|19||Pullman. Amber Spyglass|
|20||Pullman. Amber Spyglass (cont.)||Journals due|
Paradise Lost, Book X
Parker. "Eve, Evening, and the Labor of Reading" in Paradise Lost
|Last Journals due|
|22||Field trip to Boston public library|
|23||In-class presentations||Rough draft due|
|24||In-class presentations (cont.)|
Paradise Lost, Book XI
Grossman. "Milton's Dialectic Vision"
|26||Paradise Lost, Book XII||Seminar paper due|