English 149 - Fall, 2019

Topics in Literature

    Topic: Paradise Lost and the Classics

Class Information

Instructor: Connally, Kenneth
CRN: 63636
Time: MWF 11:00-11:50
Location: 140 Physics


    Topic: Paradise Lost and the Classics

    John Milton's Paradise Lost, usually considered the greatest epic poem in the English language, is also among the English poems most thoroughly suffused with references to Greco-Roman mythology and literature. Milton, who published the poem in 1667, was a formidable scholar who had been reading and composing in ancient Greek and Latin from boyhood; he drew heavily from his wide-ranging knowledge of the classics as he composed his epic. Yet the relationship between Paradise Lost and the classical tradition is curiously strained. As a Puritan poet ostensibly retelling the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis, Milton thought of himself as reinventing the epic genre to suit his Christian purpose of "justifying the ways of God to man"--in the process reinterpreting (he might say "correcting") the entire literary and philosophical tradition that the Renaissance had inherited from ancient Greece and Rome.

    In this class, we will interrogate the intertextual links between Paradise Lost and its ancient sources. As we work our way through this challenging but rewarding epic, we will put it in dialogue with the fascinating ancient texts that clearly inspired and perhaps bedeviled Milton as he wrote it, from Homer's Iliad and Ovid's Metamorphoses to Plato's Symposium and Horace's Art of Poetry. My hope is that, in addition to gaining an appreciation of Paradise Lost, students will bring away from the class an understanding of the classical tradition that will enrich their reading of many other authors throughout English literary history.


    Quizzes: 10%
    Final Exam: 15%
    Group Presentation: 15%
    Reports and Report Revisions: 20%
    Term Paper: 40%


    Paradise Lost, John Milton
    Course Reader