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Unit information: Paradise Lost: Inception and Reception in 2015/16

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Unit name Paradise Lost: Inception and Reception
Unit code ENGL29032
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Mason
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Love it or hate it, there can be no doubt that Paradise Lost is the most consequential poem in English, many later writers regarding Milton as a poet who had extended the possibilities of poetic attainment. One book (or so) is studied in detail each week. Particular attention is paid (1) to Milton’s materials (including translations of Hebrew verse, Homer, Lucretius, Virgil, and Ovid), and (2) to various poetical, crucial and scholarly responses of contemporaries and successors, (including Andrew Marvell, John Dryden, Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope, Voltaire, Richard Bentley, Jonathan Richardson, Samuel Johnson, William Cowper, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Percy Shelley, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, and T.S. Eliot). The popular and critical success of Paradise Lost is compared with some comparative failures (including poems by Abraham Cowley, Samuel Wesley, and Richard Blackmore, and some attempts to render the poem in heroic couplets or in prose).

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  1. attain an in-depth knowledge of the most consequential poem in English, its sources and its inheritors;
  2. engage with classical and Hebraic literature in translation, as it influenced Milton, and thereby develop an understanding of the nature of literary reception;
  3. learn about the significant literary legacy of the poem, and its influence on the works of later writers;
  4. cultivate a comparative critical perspective by negotiating with the views of other respondents to the poem;
  5. extend the range of their close-reading skills through sustained attention to form, rhythm, diction, imagery and allusion.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

  • 1 essay of 2000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3000 words (60%)

The 2,000 word essay will demonstrate a relatively limited mastery of ILOs 1-5. The 3,000 word essay will demonstrate a much fuller mastery of ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Among the key texts to be studied are:

Paradise Lost, a Poem (in editions of 1667, 1674, 1732, 1749, 1801, 2001)

The Bible (particularly Genesis, Song of Songs, Job, Revelations)

Homer, The Iliad (trans. Pope)

Virgil, The Æneid (trans. Dryden)

Ovid, The Metamorphoses (trans. Sandys 1632, Garth et al. 1717)

John Shawcross, ed., Milton: The Critical Heritage (2 vols., London, 1970)