LIT 47 — Milton’s Paradise Lost: A Poem About Life
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 21—Nov 30
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Sep 23
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Instructor(s): Nicholas Jenkins
Class Recording Available: Yes
John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) is the most ambitious and complex poem ever written in English. Composed long after Milton had gone totally blind, and published shortly after he was forced into hiding for fear of public execution, it tells the Christian story of the angels’ rebellion in Heaven, the creation of the universe, and humanity’s fall into sin. One of the strangest and most eccentrically beautiful stories ever written, it deals in a unique way with perennial themes of fear, sinfulness, revolt, free will, adoration, and love. What does the Devil sound like? How do Adam and Eve talk to one another? What is Eden like? Milton imagines all of this. Paradise Lost is a planet in the poetic sky, exercising a powerful gravitational pull on authors and thinkers from Wordsworth to Mary Shelley to Malcolm X (who read the poem while in prison). It is long, dense, allusive, and controversial. It challenges readers to debate questions about gender roles, sexuality, destiny, nature, and evil. To study Milton alone, especially when reading him for the first time, is sometimes to feel lost. This course offers students an opportunity to explore Milton’s epic work together, appreciating its imaginative power and debating how best to understand it. Think of this course as a once-in-a- lifetime journey best undertaken in a group.
Nicholas Jenkins is the primary investigator for Kindred Britain, a digital humanities website that traces relationships among nearly 30,000 British people. He has contributed to the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. He received a DPhil from the University of Oxford.
Associate Professor of English, Stanford
Textbooks for this course:
(Required) John Milton, ed. David Scott Kastan, Paradise Lost, 3rd edition (ISBN 978-0872207332)