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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 379S • Milton and Blake

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34580 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
GAR 0.120

Course Description

This course examines major works by England's two greatest prophet poets, John Milton and his Romantic successor, William Blake, one of whose greatest epic poems is entitled, Milton. Both poets were republicans who lived during revolutionary times, considered themselves Christians but despised orthodoxy, and regarded their poetic inspiration as divine, their own creativity as an extension of God's. Milton held the heterodox belief that man, in course of time, might someday become angelical and discover "a paradise within, happier far" than the one he lost. Blake takes up the suggestion while arguing, somewhat differently, that "expanded sense-perception" is actually possible here and now through vision. But there are also significant differences between the two men. Noting the charismatic energy of Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost and the abstractness of his God, Blake famously claimed, "The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it." In other words, Milton's theology and his imagination stood in conflict. We shall try to judge if Blake was right, or if he misread Milton for purposes of his own. Both men were, paradoxically, iconoclastic poets, but Blake was, as well, a visual artist and "illuminated" his poetry with designs often sharply ironical toward Christian iconography. Continuing questions throughout the course will be: How did Milton and Blake envision their role and responsibilities as Christian poet prophets? By what poetic strategies and devices do they try to communicate truth, or bear witness to injustice? How did each man see himself as carrying on the work of forbears going back, ultimately, to St. Paul and Jesus? How did he expect inspired readers to carry on his work, and in what ways does the record show those expectations to have been realized in actual fact, and in what ways not?

Grading Policy

Three 3-page papers (each worth 15%); a 10-page term paper, which may build on earlier work (worth 45%); participation is worth 10%. Depending on class size and willingness, I may allow substitution of a 6-page, 18-20 minute oral presentation for two of the short papers.

I'll allow four unexcused absences; after that, you will be penalized for each additional absence. Discussion, debate, and sharing of ideas are crucial; in a seminar, students are obligated to one another to prepare for and attend class.


Blake's Poetry and Designs, ed. Johnson and Grant
Complete Poetry and Major Prose of Milton, ed. Merritt Hughes
A packet of Xeroxed materials, not yet available


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