M i l t o n

david wilson-okamura / english 59-01 / autumn 2001 / macalester college

Best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost, John Milton was also a forceful advocate of free speech who lost his eyesight arguing for the overthrow of the English monarchy. This course will explore the full range of Milton's writings in prose and verse, from Comus and the early lyrics to the monumental works of his final decades.

Sept. 5 W Introduction
7 F Masson, "Brief Life" (Elledge 313-49); "Milton on Milton" (Patrides 49-74, 133-38)
10 M Theory of poetry: "Vacation Exercise," "Ad patrem," "Arcades," "Solemn Music"; in Patrides 401-6: "Extracts, Mainly on Literature"
12 W "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (= "Nativity Ode")
14 F "Nativity Ode" (cont.), "Elegia quinta," "Elegia sexta"
17 M "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso"
19 W Fish, "What It's Like to Read 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso'" (ER);
recommended: Brooks, "Light Symbolism" (ER)
21 F Butler, "Private and Occasional Drama"; Jonson, Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue (ER)
24 M

Comus; reread Milton's other masque, "Arcades"

26 W

Comus (continued)

28 F "Epitaphium Damonis" (Latin with English translation); "Lycidas"
Oct. 1 M "Lycidas": reread for imagery
3 W "Lycidas" revisions (handout); Virgil, Eclogues 5 and 10 (course web site)
5 F Rivers, "Issues" (Elledge 307-13); Wilding, "Milton's Early Radicalism" (ER)
8 M Areopagitica
10 W Evans, "Imagery as Argument" (ER); Smallenburg, "Style as Argument" (ER)
12 F On Education
15 M Prince, "Heroic Sonnet" (ER); sonnets of praise: I, IX, X, XIII, XIV, "Henry Vane"
17 W Political sonnets: VIII, XI, XII, XV, "On the Lord General Fairfax," "To the Lord General Cromwell," "On the New Forcers of Conscience"
19 F Horace, Epode 13 and Odes 2.11, 3.8 (handout);
Lovelace, "The Grasshopper" (handout); Milton, Sonnets XVII, XVIII
22 M Sonnets on vocation, loss, blindness: VII, XIV, XVI, "To Mr Cyriack Skinner," XIX
24 W Evaluation and review
26 F Fall Break
29 M Marvell, "Horatian Ode"; Milton, "To the Lord General Cromwell"
31 W Marvell, "Upon Appleton House"; Milton, "On the Lord General Fairfax"
Nov. 2 F Genesis 1-3 (Elledge 429-33); dramatic sketches (handout)
5 M

Paradise Lost (= PL) 1 (Invocation; Satan; hell). Over the next week you will also want to read "Important Concepts and Topics in PL" (Elledge 461-74); title is boring, content exceedingly useful.

7 W

PL 2 (Council of demons; Satan braves Chaos, Sin, and Death, invades earth)

9 F

PL 3 (Invocation; God observes, explains)

12 M

PL 4 (Eden)

14 W Readings on style: Milton, "The Verse of PL" (Elledge 6); Eliot, "Note on the Verse" (ER); Lewis, "Style of Secondary Epic" (ER). Recommended: selection from Ricks, Milton's Grand Style in Elledge 537-54
16 F

PL 5 (Eve's dream; Raphael's embassy; Adam's creation)

19 M

PL 6 (War in heaven) and 7 (Creation)



Essay prospectus due



Thanksgiving Friday

26 M

PL 8 (Eve's creation; concluding admonitions)

28 W

PL 9 (Temptation and fall)

30 F

PL 10 (Debate; reconciliation)

Dec. 3 M

PL 11-12 (Prophecy; expulsion)

5 W Women, theology, style: Sypher, "Baroque"; Nyquist, "Gendered Subjectivity" (ER); recommended: essays by Halley and Turner in Elledge 643-74
7 F Radzinowicz, "Politics of PL" (ER)
10 M

Samson Agonistes (= SA); Marvell, "On Paradise Lost" (Elledge 4-5)

12 W Marvell, "The Garden"; Hill, from The Experience of Defeat (ER)


Essay due; Samuel Johnson, abbreviated "Life of Milton" (course web site)

required texts

Marvell, Andrew. "To His Coy Mistress" and Other Poems. Dover, 1997.

Milton, John. Complete Shorter Poems. Ed. John Carey. Longman Annotated Poets. 2nd ed. New York: Longman-Addison Wesley, 1997.

-----. Paradise Lost. Ed. Scott Elledge. Norton Critical Editions. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1993.

-----. Selected Prose. Ed. C. A. Patrides. Rev. ed. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1985.


Hard copies of all assignments are due at the beginning of the class period. Assignments delivered after that will receive a lower grade. (For instance, an A- essay that is delivered up to 24 hours late will receive a B+, an A- essay that is delivered between 24 and 48 hours late will receive a B, and so on.)

Essay (25%). Submit one essay of 3,000-3,500 words on course readings of your choice. (It may, in some cases, be possible to write on a text that does not appear on the syllabus, but you will need to clear this with me first.)

Preliminary to writing the paper itself you will turn in a three-paragraph prospectus describing your topic, your work thus far (including secondary reading if your argument requires it), and any problems you foresee.

Weekly Analysis (55%). Each week, you will submit a written analysis of the previous week's discussion (800 words, or about two and half pages). Your analysis of week one will be due at the first class meeting of week two and so on. A good analysis will summarize the content of the previous week's discussion, but it will also evaluate that discussion: what, for instance, got left out of the conversation last week, and why does it matter? In general, I think one part evaluation to two parts analytical summary is a good balance. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation count, as do style and content.

One final note. Each written analysis will be submitted in two forms: to me, on paper, and to the other members of the class, by email (milton@virgil.org).

Discussion (20%). Over the course of the semester, you and a partner of your choosing will be responsible for class discussion on two or more occasions (the precise number will depend on enrollment). To prepare for the discussion, you and your partner will meet together before class and select six passages from the day's reading. Your job will not be to present these passages to the class in any formal way. Instead, you will come to class with three or four questions about each passage. You need not know the answer to these questions yourself, and you may not (probably will not) get to pose each question you have prepared for each passage. The ultimate goal of the questions is to direct our attention to the details of the text. Apart from this goal, getting through a list of questions about a given piece of text has no intrinsic value. Pick questions, therefore, that can sustain an intelligent conversation about the passage in question for five to ten minutes—and have back-ups. Sometimes good questions go nowhere for no good reason. One final word of direction on picking questions: pose questions that force us to pay attention to the language of the text. In the course of discussion, it is expected that we will, from time to time, take up some of Milton's ideas on their own terms. This is inevitable and it is the way Milton intended his poetry to be read: Milton took ideas seriously and he invited his readers to argue with him (see, for example, the preface to De doctrina christiana, in Patrides 360-63; an extended version of this thesis also appears in Areopagitica). The glory—and the danger—in this is that sometimes a discussion of ideas can spin out of control. Your job, in leading discussion, will be to bring us back to the text, not because Milton wants you to take his word for something, but because what Milton has to say about a subject is (a) usually worth thinking about, (b) not always apparent on a first reading, and (c) useful for bringing structure and substance to our exchanges when they threaten to turn nasty or (what is worse) trivial. Your ability to use the text in this way will depend largely on how much you have thought about it beforehand and is one of the main things that I will look for in assigning a grade for this assignment.

After you and your partner have decided on a plan for the class, each of you will write up a 500-word rationale for picking the six passages you and your partner selected. Concentrate on answering two questions: how do these passages relate to the work as a whole and how do they relate to one another? This document is due at the beginning of class on the day you are leading discussion. It doesn't need to be fancy, though it does need to be typed. Again, spelling, grammar, and punctuation count.

Attendance and Reading. There is one more requirement for this course: you have to come to class and you have to do the reading. If you don't, you'll get a no credit (nc) for the semester, even if you hand in all of the graded assignments. Not coming to class = missing nine or more class meetings. Not doing the reading = failing more random reading quizzes than you pass. Note: these quizzes are impossible to fail if you have done the reading; if you haven't done the reading, or you aren't in class to take them, you may find them something of a challenge.

Email. Announcements and changes to the syllabus will be delivered by email.


Everyone gets a two-day extension on two written analyses over the course of the semester. You choose which ones. You don't need to ask me ahead of time: just hand in a sheet of paper with your name on it that says "I'm taking an extension on this week's analysis." In the interests of fairness, however, no one will be granted a third extension. Exam dates and deadlines for the paper and prospectus are, by contrast, adamantine and immutable.

important times, phone numbers, addresses

Office: Old Main 205 (phone 651.696.6643)

Email: wilson-okamura@virgil.org

Office hours: mwf 1:20-2:20. Extra hours as needed and by appointment. If you'd like to schedule an appointment—and I encourage you to do so if these hours don't work for you—just grab me after class or give me a phone call and we'll set up a time. If you call my office and I'm not there, do try me at home, though not after 9:00 pm, please; the phone number there is 651.699.3577.

Email discussion group for this course: milton@virgil.org

Course materials on the web: http://virgil.org/dswo/courses/milton

reference These items can be found online or in the reference section on the first floor of the library.

Cross, F. L., and E. A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 2nd ed. London: Oxford UP, 1974. BR95.O8.1974.

Dictionary of Literary Biography [abbreviated DLB]. Detroit: Bruccoli Clark-Gale Research, 1978-. PS221.D5. For 16C poets, see vols. 132, 136, 167, and 172. For 17C poets, see vols. 121, 126, and 131. For Elizabethan dramatists, see vol. 62. For 17C dramatists, see vols. 58, 80, 84, and 89.

Grendler, Paul F., ed. Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. 6 vols. New York, Scribner's, 1999. CB361.E52.1999.

Hamilton, A. C., gen. ed. The Spenser Encyclopedia. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1990. PR2362.S65.1990.

Harner, James L. Literary Research Guide: An Annotated Listing of Reference Sources in English Literary Studies. 3rd ed. New York: MLA, 1998. Z2011.H34.1998.

Hunter, William B., Jr., gen. ed. A Milton Encyclopedia. 9 vols. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1978-83. PR3580.M5.

Langer, William L. An Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Chronologically Arranged. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972. D21.L27.1972.

MLA International Bibliography. New York: Modern Language Association, 1967-.
Online: http://spweb.silverplatter.com/c117140?

Oxford English Dictionary, The [abbreviated OED]. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989. PE1625.O87.1989.
Online: http://dictionary.oed.com/entrance.dtl

Stephen, Sir Leslie, and Sir Sidney Lee, eds. The Dictionary of National Biography [abbreviated DNB]. 24 vols. plus supplements. London: Oxford UP, 1921-. DA28.D48.


Clark, Donald Lemen. John Milton at St. Paul's School: A Study of Ancient Rhetoric in English Renaissance Education. 1948. Rpt. n.p.: Archon, 1964. PR3582.C5.1964.

Danielson, Dennis, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Milton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989. PR3588.C27.1989. 2nd ed. is on order.

Evans, J. Martin. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968. PR3562.E9.1968.

Honigmann, E. A. J. Milton's Sonnets. New York: St. Martin's, 1966. PR3567.1966.

Hudson, Gladys W. Paradise Lost: A Concordance. Detroit: Gale, 1970. In stacks: please do not check out. PR3562.H8.1970.

Hughes, Merritt Y., gen ed. A Variorum Commentary on the Poems of John Milton. New York: Columbia UP, 1970-. Vol. 1: poems in Latin and Italian. Vol 2 (in 3 parts): minor poems in English. PR3593.V3.

Lewis, C. S. A Preface to Paradise Lost. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1942. PR3562.L4.

Wolfe, Don. M., gen. ed. Complete Prose Works. [= Yale Prose.] 8 vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1953-1982. In stacks: please do not check out. Use with Sterne and Kollmeier, Concordance. PR3569.W3.

Fowler, Alastair, ed. Paradise Lost. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 1998. PR3560.1998.

Parker, William Riley. Milton: A Biography. 1968. 2nd ed. Rev. Gordon Campbell. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. Vol. 1 has text; vol. 2 has notes (including Campbell's corrections) and index. PR3581.P27.1996.

Sterne, Laurence, and Harold H. Kollmeier, gen. eds. A Concordance to the English Prose of John Milton. Binghamton: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1985. PR3592.P7.S7.1985.
In stacks: please do not check out. Volume and page numbers keyed to Yale Prose.