EL 48N | Fall 2021 | MMW 785 | 

Dr. Ethan Guagliardo | | Office Hours: Slack and by Zoom appt

“Something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die”

This class is on the life, work, and thought of John Milton, the self-styled prophet, revolutionary polemicist, the last and perhaps best of our epic poets, and all around froward personality type. Many of you will have already had some experience with Paradise Lost from EL 202–this is great, as reading is only really rereading. 


Research paper: 45% (Reverse-outline: 5%; First draft 20%; Final draft 20%)  |  Animadversion Board: 24%  |  Short Assignments and Quizzes: 16%  |  Participation: 15%

Research Paper: 8-10 pages on some aspect of Milton’s poetry or prose, incorporating scholarly research. This paper will proceed in stages: 1) a prospectus outlining the topic, 2) a reverse-outline of a single, important secondary source, 3) a list of all sources, 4) a complete first draft, and 5) a final paper. 

Animadversion Board: Long before the internet, John Milton was a deeply unfair and ferocious polemicist. One of his favorite genres of polemic was the animadversion–where one quotes a chunk of an opponent’s text and then proceeds to refute it.  We will be doing a little animadverting in this class (though unlike Milton, we will not be engaging in ad hominem attacks or petty insults!).  The class will be divided into three groups. Each week, one group will be responsible for writing a short response paper of around 250 words, answering a prompt. Another group will be responsible for writing an “animadversion”–a response to the response paper which quotes a bit of its text, and disagrees with/complicates/expands its argument.  All told, you will write three response papers and three animadversions over the course of the semester.

Short Assignments and Quizzes: I will assign a number of short assignments throughout the semester that will prompt you to think about the readings in ways beyond the formal essay. These will be about one page, but they may involve other media, like audio.

Secondary Readings: Secondary readings are recommended for everyone, but required only if you are doing a response paper.

Participation: Are you actively engaged in class? Are you asking questions, offering your own readings of texts, thoughts, etc.? The participation grade will assess that dimension of classroom/slack performance. Attendance is necessary to participate, though not sufficient.

Zoom policy (if needed): Although I will on occasion record “instructional videos” for assignments, zoom sessions will be “synchronous”–live and in-person. In my view this is the best way to imitate the classroom environment as closely as possible. If you are anxious about speaking up, you may also ask/answer questions in the text box. I will read out questions and try to answer them as soon as possible. In order to be counted as present, I ask that you keep your cameras on. Dress as you wish, eat or smoke during class; you should be comfortable in your own home. Please let me know if you will need to keep your camera off for some reason.

Slack/office hours policy: I consider our class slack channel to be an open-ended “office hour.” There you may ask questions pertaining to class or life, engage other students, post songs and other material of interest to the class, etc. Discussions must be thoughtful and respectful.

Late work policy: I always accommodate reasonable requests for extensions without penalty. This is all the more true in the time of COVID. Please inform me that you need an extension at least 24 hours ahead of time except in cases of real emergency. 

Weekly Schedule

Week 1, Oct. 6
Wednesday: Introduction to the class, the man, the times–read Nicholas van Maltzahn, “John 

Milton: The Later Life,” in The Oxford Handbook to John Milton 

Week 2: The Education of Young Milton, Christian Humanist?

“On Shakespeare”; “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”; L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”; “Lycidas”; from Nicholas Mcdowell, Milton: Poet of Revolution: “Living with Daemons” and “Domina”

Group 1 Response Paper I; Group 2 Animadversion I Due 

Week 3: Milton on Milton

The Parable of the Talents; Isaiah 6; The Reason of Church-Government, 85-91 (preface to Book 2); An Apology Against a Pamphlet, pp. 96-99 (on p. 96, paragraph beginning in column 2)-; Second Defense of the English People, 346-351 (all in Milton’s Prose); Sonnet 7, “How soon hath time”; Sonnet 16, “When I consider how my light is spent”; “To Mr. Cyriack Skinner on his blindness” 

Group 2 Response Paper I; Group 3 Animadversion I Due

Week 4, Milton on Women

Genesis, chapters 1-3. Mark 10: 1-12 (Jesus on divorce) From The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Book 1, chapters 1-4; 13; Book 2, chapter 15 in Milton’s Prose; Sonnets 11-12; Sonnet 23, “Methought I saw my late espoused Saint”; Annabel Patterson, “Milton, Marriage, and Divorce” 

Group 3 Response Paper I; Group 1 Animadversion I Due

Week 5, Milton on Liberty 

John Milton, Areopagitica, in Milton’s Prose; “On the New Forcers of Conscience”; Sonnet To Fairfax; Sonnet To Cromwell; Sonnet 15, “On the Late Massacre at Piedmont” 

Group 1 Response Paper II; Group 2 Animadversion II Due

Week 6, Disobedience

Mon, Nov 8: The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (selections), 246-58; “On the Verse of Paradise
Lost”;  Paradise Lost, 1.1-26.

Wed, Nov 10: Paradise Lost, 1

Group 2 Response Paper II; Group 3 Animadversion II Due

Week 7, November 15-17

Paradise Lost, 1-2; Kenneth Gross, “Satan and Romantic Satan” or from Stanley Fish, Surprised by Sin

Group 3 Response Paper II; Group 1 Animadversion II Due

Week 8, November 22-24

Paradise Lost, 3-4; Dennis Danielson, “The Fall and Milton’s Theodicy” or Richard Strier, “Milton’s Fetters”

Prospectus Due

Week 9, November 29-December 31

Paradise Lost, 4-5; or Diana McKolley, “Milton and Ecology” or Stephen Fallon, “Milton’s Animist Materialism” 

Group 1 Response Paper III; Group 2 Animadversion III Due

Week 10, December 6-8 

Paradise Lost, 6-7; De Doctrina Christiana, “Of the Son of God” and “Of the Creation”; Rumrich, “Radical Heterodoxy and Heresy”

Group 2 Response Paper III, Group 3 Animadversion III Due

Week 11, December 13-15
Paradise Lost, 8-9 

Reverse-Outline Due

Week 12, December 20-22

Paradise Lost, 9-10; Joshua Scodel, “Edenic Freedoms” or Timothy Harrison, “Unexperienced Thought” 

List of Sources
Group 3 Response Paper III; Group 1 Animadversion III Due

Week 13: Imagining Enslavement
Dec 27: Paradise Lost 11-12; from Mary Nyquist, Arbitrary Rule (Chicago, 2013), chapt 4;
focus on pages 137-47.
Dec 29: Samson Agonistes

First Draft Due

Week 14

Jan 3: Samson Agonistes

Final Essay Due, TBA

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