To be honest, I signed up for the Milton class I’m taking on a whim. I had originally signed up for English 4000, because it was mandatory at the time, and Poetry, well, because I love it.
Then came the announcement that frustrated the university’s older English majors: English 4000 was no longer a required course for an AB English degree. I was ecstatic: my grade wasn’t going to go down the toilet this semester!
With English 4000 dropped from my class schedule, I glanced through the roster of English classes online. Then I thought, “Hey, why not Milton?” It was still a 4000-level English class, but the number wasn’t really what caught my attention. No, it was my obsession with His Dark Materials. I’m going to have to save my post concerning that said obsession for another time, because if I mention it now, it will overtake this post, which is obviously supposed to be about Milton and the Paradise poems.
On the first day of the semester, I learned that there was an available spot in a photojournalism class I really wanted to take. I’m lazy and get stressed incredibly easily (oh, and I have to limit my course hours so I don’t have to graduate early), so I didn’t want to take five classes this semester. Or any semester, for that matter. I did that my very first semester of college, and I was a little overwhelmed. I would have to drop Poetry or Milton.
I went to the bookstore, because, like the model student I am, I didn’t have my textbooks. Plus I wouldn’t have time to pick up the photojournalism textbook later that day. Obviously, I used this bookstore trip to examine my course loads for the Milton and poetry classes. The poetry class required that I buy nine books; the Milton class only required one. I was taking Milton.
I’m sure I would have adored the poetry class, but I’m really glad with the choice I made. I immediately decided to stay in the class when I walked into the room and saw one of my friends sitting in a desk. That meant I wouldn’t be the only sophomore in a 4000-level English class. We younger English majors who are a year ahead in our classes have to stick together. Will and I make great study partners. We are killing that class. Also we’re making the same scores on everything, which I think is funny. I think everything is funny, though.
There are a number of other reasons I like Milton. Firstly, we have a similar mindset. There is evidence in Milton’s earlier work, which he wrote when he was around my age, that he didn’t feel like he was doing enough with his life and work. Milton was a perfectionist and a worrywart, just like me! His environment was extremely competitive: He was surrounded by scholars and writers, and I think it terrified him a little. He must have put himself under a tremendous amount of pressure. I just liked that we have similar mentalities. It makes me feel a lot better about being in a huge creative slump (which is disappearing, by the way, if you haven’t noticed – I’m writing something every day now!).
I also have this thing for religious literature. I guess it’s because I wasn’t raised with any particular religious background. With an Iranian dad and an American mom, it’s pretty obvious that my parents didn’t have a similar religious background. I did go to Catholic school, but the only religious literature I was really exposed to was a little bit of the New Testament, books in the religion and literature class I took (and everybody in the class got to pick a book, and that’s how I got a Catholic teacher to assign The Golden Compass to his class.). Oh, and the songs I sang in mass for chorus. Aside from the New Testament class I had to take in the 10th grade, my other exposures to religious literature were optional.
I haven’t read much Puritan literature. My AP American Lit class read a few Puritan poems before we had to read The Scarlet Letter when I was in the 11th grade, but that was American Puritan literature (again, that exposure was completely optional since I chose to take the AP English class). Milton was a Puritan, and obviously he wasn’t an American Puritan. And reading an English Puritan’s literature is nice because I can read it without having to discuss the Salem Witch Trials or anything of the sort. It was a nice spin on things. I just really like reading religious literature because I’m free to make an interpretation without anybody telling me how to think or judging me. People don’t know what I’m up to because I’m just reading! Isn’t literature wonderful?
Okay, point number three. I love Paradise Lost. I made Paradise Lost my bitch this semester. Paradise Regain’d can be my little bitch. Or would that be my bottom bitch? I’m not sure. I can’t speak pimp. I’ve assigned myself all this supplementary reading material, like Utopia, His Dark Materials (of course), and the Old Testament, so I can research Paradise Lost and appreciate it even more. Paradise Lost actually helped inspire me to create my own concentration within my English major. Well, reading Dante’s Inferno and Pullman helped with that too.
Paradise Lost is one rich text. Sure, there are the obvious themes of knowledge, obedience, and disguises, but there is so much more. There’s history, sociability, fertility, heroism (well, atypical heroism), teaching, the power of words, and of course, blindness (these are all topics for the essay I have to write during my exam tomorrow, by the way). And there are allusions all over the place. There are geographical allusions, biblical allusions (well, obviously), mythological allusions, even allusions to Milton’s other poems. I read one in Paradise Regain’d today, for example. Milton’s texts are so rich! I’m rolling in literary dough! I just love literature so much!
I’m not so sure if writing about how much I like Paradise Lost helps me study for my exam at all, but at least it makes me eager. I have already planned out my essay, after all (I’m writing about the roles of sociability in Paradise Lost, Paradise Regain’d, and Comus). I’m actually kind of excited to write this essay, because I know I’m going to kill it. Since when do I feel this way about finals? I suppose I did feel this way yesterday.
I have a new theory! Milton’s work is slightly responsible for the route to happiness and stability that I’ve encountered. Yeah, why not? I’m sure I could argue it. At this point, I can argue anything. And now I really need to end this post and actually do my work, so I’m going to end this as strongly as I can – so I’m going to use the end of Paradise Lost to close this up. Feast on this, lovers of literature.
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.