English 9143B

Milton: The Major Poems

Professor J. Leonard
Winter Half Course.

This course will examine Milton’s three great poems, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. Approximately eight weeks will be devoted to Paradise Lost and two each to Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. Questions for discussion will include: Is Paradise Lost an epic? Is “the grand style” sublime or merely bombastic? Was Milton “of the Devil’s Party without knowing it”?  Were Adam and Eve “fallen before the Fall”? Was Milton a misogynist? What are Satan’s motives in tempting Jesus? Is Samson a hero or a terrorist? The prevailing question will be “Why does Milton Matter?” and equal emphasis will be placed on aesthetic and historical/political questions.


The only required text for purchase is Milton’s Complete Poems, but critical readings will be assigned on a weekly basis and made available either in Leanne’s office or online. You should use a reliable text of the poem with thorough annotations. The bookstore has copies of my Penguin edition. Also recommended (and particularly good for graduate work) is Alastair Fowler’s 1998 Longman edition. Other good editions include the Modern Library Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton, edited by William Kerrigan, Stephen Fallon, and John Rumrich (2007). You should not use an anthology, as the notes are inadequate.

View the course syllabus here: English 9143B. PDF download