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LIT 47 A — Milton’s Paradise Lost: A Poem About Life

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 16—Mar 19
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 18
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $550
Instructor(s): Nicholas Jenkins
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 16—Mar 19
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 18
2 Units
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Nicholas Jenkins
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
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 and 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 will offer 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.

Students can choose to attend this course on campus or online. Sign up for Section A if you think you might attend class on the Stanford campus at least once. There is no commitment—you can still choose to attend via Zoom for any session. Sign up for Section B if you know you will exclusively attend via Zoom.

Associate Professor of English, Stanford

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.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) John Milton, David Scott Kastan(ed), Paradise Lost (Hackett Classics). 3rd edition (ISBN 978-0872207332)