E 392M • John Milton: Life and Art
This course will survey Milton's works in the context of his historical situation and offer some sense both of seventeenth-century British literary culture and of the intricate and varied history of critical engagement with Milton's writings over nearly four centuries.
Milton believed that a true poet must himself live a true poem. With this invitation to ponder the intertexuality of Milton's life and art, we will consider the perplexing self-authorship of a poet whose commitment to filial obedience led to regicide. The course will introduce Milton the propagandist, theologian, linguist, social critic, historian, logician, state official, and self-proclaimed prophet. We will grapple with the paradox of a poet setting out to justify the ways of God to men after he had suffered blindness, crushing political defeat, domestic turmoil, imprisonment, public ridicule, and a close brush with a grisly execution. We will also examine Milton's development as a poet by comparing his early poems in particular with works by other seventeenth-century British poets.
Given the strategic position that Milton occupies on the intellectual and ideological map of literary studies, we will also try to understand the pressures that have shaped scholarly opinion of him through the generations. In this regard, our primary focus will be on the early reception history--from the 1640s until the late Eighteenth Century.
The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton (Modern Library, 2007). ISBN: 0679642536
Seventeenth-Century British Poetry 1603-1660 (Norton, 2006). ISBN: 0393979989