Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG303H1S L5101

ENG303H1S L5101 MW 6-9
P. Harrison
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Office Location:
Jackman Humanities Building, Room TBA

Brief Description of Course: Since the publication of Paradise Lost, John Milton has been celebrated as England's greatest epic poet. Unlike the great national epics of the past – Homer's Iliad or Virgil's Aeneid for example – Milton's poem does not directly concern itself with the history of its poet's nation. Instead it takes for its subject far loftier matters: the creation of the universe and the history of humanity's place within it. It does this by adapting and dramatizing the creation accounts in the biblical book of Genesis, but goes far beyond the relatively short narrative given there. Building upon biblical commentaries, philosophy, history, mythology, literature, and virtually every other subject imaginable, Milton's poem offers a glance into a world view that is both eternal, and yet, very much a product of its particular moment in space and time. John Milton was, of course, a revolutionary, a Parliamentarian with the blood of King Charles I on his hands. This act of political rebellion cannot be separated from Paradise Lost's account of Satan's rebellion against God, nor can Milton's unique form of Christianity (Puritanism).

In this course, we will study the entirety of Milton's epic poem. We will learn to read Milton's dense verse – though similar in form to Shakespeare's more familiar verse, Milton's is characterized by a gravitas few other English poets have achieved. We will, moreover, examine some of the literary, philosophical, religious, and scientific concepts Milton weaves into his epic. Ultimately, this will help us to understand Milton's seemingly contradictory Puritan and humanist reception of pagan antiquity.

Required Reading: Milton, John. Paradise Lost (ed. Kerrigan et al.; Modern Library).

First Three Authors/Texts:Milton, John. Paradise Lost (ed. Kerrigan et al.; Modern Library).

Method of Instruction: Lecture

Method of Evaluation: Short writing assignment; term essay; final take-home test; TBA.

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