Milton’s Paradise Lost: A Poem About Life

John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) is the most ambitious and complex poem ever written in English. Composed long after Milton had gone totally blind and published shortly after he was forced into hiding for fear of public execution, it tells the Christian story of the angels’ rebellion in Heaven, the creation of the universe, and humanity’s fall into sin. One of the strangest and most eccentrically beautiful stories ever written, it deals in a unique way with perennial themes of fear, sinfulness, revolt, free will, adoration, and love. What does the Devil sound like? How do Adam and Eve talk to one another? What is Eden like? Milton imagines all of this. Paradise Lost is a planet in the poetic sky, exercising a powerful gravitational pull on authors and thinkers from Wordsworth to Mary Shelley and Malcolm X (who read the poem while in prison). It is long, dense, allusive, and controversial. It challenges readers to debate questions about gender roles, sexuality, destiny, nature, and evil. To study Milton alone, especially when reading him for the first time, is sometimes to feel lost. This course will offer students an opportunity to explore Milton’s epic work together, appreciating its imaginative power and debating how best to understand it. Think of this course as a once-in-a-lifetime journey best undertaken in a group.

Nicholas Jenkins
Associate Professor of English, Stanford


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Online, instructor-led
Jan 16 - Mar 19, 2024
Stanford Continuing Studies