Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Coming Attractions: Paradise Lost, Books III and IV

Just to keep track some of the questions which we have been asking about Paradise Lost.

1. In what ways does the poem register political defeat or loss? In a more general sense, in what sense is the poem political? Does Satan really give voice to Milton's own claims for liberty? In what way might Milton qualify a reader's initial enthusiasm in identifying the perspective of Satan with that of the poet?

2. What are the different narrative perspectives present in Paradise Lost? Is there suspense in the poem? When a reader feels suspense, what point of view - or perspective on narrative - would she be adopting? How do such issues of narrative relate to other questions we raised - about time and free will?

3. What is the psychology of defeat for the Satanic host? What are the ways in which the various devils cheer themselves up?

4. Are the devils (and the angels who we are about to meet in Book IV) physical? spiritual? Does it make a difference?

For next time, some preliminary questions:

1. What kind of vision does Milton claim for himself in the poetic invocation to Book III?

2. How does Milton further refine conceptions of free will and determinism in book III? Doesn't Milton indulge in the same philosophical thoughts as the devils who the poet figures in Book II 'in wandering mazes lost"?

3. Why is Milton's God so boring?

4. Are there significant differences between Satan's volunteering to fly to earth in Book II and Jesus' volunteering in Book III? Do both Satan and Jesus want glory? Is there a difference?

4. How does Milton represent Adam and Eve in Book IV? How does Milton represent gender? sexuality? Is Milton a misogynist?

5. How does Milton represent Eden? In Book III, Milton claims he is going to represent things 'invisible to mortal sight' - how does he do that in relationship to Eden?

6. What is Milton's attitude towards marriage?

Watch this space for clarifications and additions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Paradise Lost Questions - Finally!

For our next class, we will be reading the first two books of Paradise Lost.

Some questions to consider:

1. How does the invocation function in the poem? How does it outline the 'plot' of the epic? What is that plot? And how does Milton figure time in these opening lines?

2. How does Milton conceive of his poem in relationship to antecedents? What precedent traditions is he invoking? How does Milton put himself into relationship to those traditions?

3. Why does the action - if such a term can be used in relation to Paradise Lost - begin in hell? How does Milton figure the satanic host? What metaphors or similes does he use to represent Satan? Are there particular passages which you find to be particulary useful in helping to understand Milton's attitude towards Satan? Finally, is Blake right: is Milton really of the devil's party without knowing it?

Watch this space for possible further updates.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Paradise Lost

In the end, we will have our next meeting on Paradise Lost a week from Monday, May 25.

Watch this space for guidance and questions.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reason and Authority in Milton and Hobbes

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Packet of readings for our class can be found here. In reading Hobbes, concentrate in chapter 5 on the definition of reason; the discussion of wit and fancy in chapter 7 (as well as the discussion of inspiration at the end of the chapter); all of chapters 13 and 17 (we will look at important parts of chapters 14 and 18 together in class).

For next time we will continue our readings of Milton's prose. We will be reading from Milton's Tenure of Kings and Magistrates and Hobbes' Leviathan. Though I have placed texts on reserve, both works are available on the internet - so we will be working with those versions for the purposes of our class discussion. The internet text of Milton's work is unpaginated - we will be reading from the beginning through the paragraph which begins: 'But of these I name no more, lest it bee objected they were Heathen....' In Leviathan, we will be looking at Part I, chapters 5, 8, 13, 14; Part II, chapters 17 and 18 - available here. We may also look at the Putney Debates - discussions among radical groups on the nature of authority and government. Background to those debates are available here; the transcription of the debates here (take a look if you have the time). We also hope to read Andrew Marvell's Horatian Ode. For cool stuff about the trial and execution of Charles, check here.

Some questions:

1. Why does Milton write the Tenure? How does Milton explain that his countrymen are not pursuing the path of 'reformation'?

2. How do Milton, Hobbes and the Levellers of the Putney tracts constitute authority differently? How are the Hobbesian and Miltonic conceptions of authority related to their corresponding conceptions of reason? Do Hobbes and Milton share a conception of 'right reason'? In what ways are their conceptions different?

3. Following our discussion of Areopagitica, how do Milton and Hobbes differ in their relationship to multiplicity? Does the discussion of wit, fancy and judgment in chapter 8 have a bearing on the conception of political compact in chapters 17 and 18? How is the Hobbesian individual different from the Miltonic individual? Does Hobbes also entertain a notion of discordia concors? If so, how is it different from that of Milton?

4. How do different accounts of history lead to differing conceptions of authority?

Stay tuned for possible amplifications and revisions.