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In this course, we will study the poetry of John Milton, focusing not only on the texts themselves, but also on the various contexts that are relevant to Milton’s oeuvre, from the tumultuous political and religious period in which Milton lived to the literary network with which his texts interact. We will also take a close look at the man behind Paradise Lost, a man that brazenly announced, relatively early in his poetic career, that he would pen a great epic in the classical tradition. Who was John Milton, and how did he manage to accomplish this goal? Though Milton has gone in and out of literary favor since his death in 1674—Romantic poets greatly valued his formal techniques as well as his figuration of Hell, while Modernists like T.S. Eliot scowled at his bookish, Puritan austerity—there is no question that Milton is a force to be reckoned with, as his works undoubtedly shaped the face and the future of English poetry. By the end of this course, you will possess a comprehensive understanding of Milton, his times, and his works.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
Explain the social and historical context of John Milton’s work.
Define some of the most important ideas related to Milton’s life and times, including (but not limited to) Calvinism, Puritanism, Protestantism, Neo-Classicism, and Predestination.
Provide accounts of the life of Charles I, the significance of the British Commonwealth, and the Restoration of the Monarchy.
Explain Milton’s major philosophies, his politics, and his religious beliefs.
Describe Milton’s chosen literary forms and rhetoric.
Provide a brief account of Milton’s life, his relationship to Cavalier Poetry, his early elegies and eulogies, and his pastoral elegies, sonnets, and odes.
List and describe the major plot developments that occur in Paradise Lost as well as Paradise Regained.
Analyze and describe both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in terms of their respective treatments of Biblical versions of Heaven and Hell, the Creation, Predestination, gender relations, representations of human nature, and the Fall of humankind.
Discuss the formal aspects and structure of both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained and analyze and describe both of these works in terms of their epic styles and conventions.
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