May 26, 2020  
2015-2016 Academic Catalog 
2015-2016 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

ENG 314-01 - Milton

4 credits (Spring)
This course is an intensive study of Milton’s poetry and prose. Our understanding of Milton’s career will be shaped by a single hypothesis: Milton radically transformed every poetic form he encountered because he was a masterful writer in prose. Milton’s career as a poet was interrupted by a major political event - the English Civil War - during which he wrote fiercely polemical pamphlets in prose. As a result, Milton was the first poet in the English tradition to take prose seriously as a model for poetry, and he critiqued the constraints of formal poetic versification as a type of political oppression binding the English language in shackles. We will first read Milton’s initial efforts to master the traditional range of poetic forms in his early lyric. We will then analyze the polemical prose tracts to identify how Milton harnessed the resources of classical rhetoric and oratory to develop a prose form unique to the English language. Finally, we will study how Milton’s career as a masterful prose stylist defined the aesthetic force of his major epics, Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes, and how these texts argue that the stylistic choices one makes in language determine the possibility of political freedom and free will. We will conclude the class by testing a second hypothesis: given Paradise Lost’s debt to Milton’s prose style, his epic is the first English novel. A note on method: this course will use close reading in conjunction with computational methods (primarily natural language processing software) to test experimental hypotheses against Milton’s entire prose corpus. We will think about why different, or analogous, arguments emerge from the different methods.

Prerequisite: ENG 223  or ENG 273 .
Instructor: Lee