In 1667, John 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. In this seminar, we will read Paradise Lost alongside works of 20th century fantasy and science fiction which rethink both Milton’s text and its source.
Students should come to the seminar having read Paradise Lost straight through at least once; this can be accomplished by taking the IAP subject, Reading Paradise Lost (21L.995), or independently. Twentieth century authors will include C. S. Lewis (Perelandra, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), as well as assorted criticism. Each week, one class meeting will focus on Milton, and the other on one of the modern novels.