Milton - Audio
by John Rogers
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(ENGL 220) This course is a study of Milton's poetry, with attention paid to his literary sources, his contemporaries, his controversial prose, and his decisive influence on the course of English poetry. Throughout the course, Professor Rogers explores the advantages and limitations of a diverse range of interpretive techniques and theoretical concerns in Milton scholarship and criticism. Lectures include close readings of lyric and epic poetry, prose, and letters; biographical inquiries; examinations of historical and political contexts; and engagement with critical debates. This course was recorded in Fall 2007.
||01 - Introduction: Milton, Power, and the Power of Milton||An introduction to John Milton: man, poet, and legend. Milton's place at the center of the English literary canon is asserted, articulated, and examined through a discussion of Milton's long, complicated association with literary power...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||02 - The Infant Cry of God||Milton's early ode, "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1629) is presented and discussed. The author's preoccupation with his standing as a novice poet and his early ambitions, as carefully outlined in the letter to Charles Diodati, are...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||03 - Credible Employment||This lecture examines the role and meanings of the word vocation in Milton's life-long meditation on (and concern for) what it means to be chosen by God. Milton's profound anxiety in the years following his graduation from...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||04 - Poetry and Virginity||Milton's first publication, A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, is examined. Milton's vision of a poet's heaven in Ad Patrem, paired with the letter to Charles Diodati, with its particular emphasis on the need for chastity in poets, is used...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||05 - Poetry and Marriage||This second lecture on Milton's masque probes its complex depictions of virginity and chastity. The version of the masque performed in 1634 is compared with the published version of 1637, with particular emphasis on a monologue on the...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||06 - Lycidas||Milton's poem Lycidas is discussed as an example of pastoral elegy and one of Milton's first forays into theodicy. The poetic speaker's preoccupation with questions of immortality and reward, especially for poets and virgins, is probed.||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||07 - Lycidas (cont.)||In this second lecture on Lycidas, moments of intrusion and revelation are closely examined. Saint Peter's protracted sermon is connected with the wider context of Puritan practices and controversies. The poem's tendency to suggest...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||08 - Areopagitica||Milton's political tract Areopagitica is discussed at length. The author's complicated take on state censorship and licensing, both practiced by the English government with respect to printed materials at the time, is examined. His eclectic...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||09 - Paradise Lost, Book I||The invocation to Paradise Lost is read and analyzed. Milton's tenure as Latin Secretary under the Puritan government, his subsequent imprisonment upon the restoration of the monarchy, and his blindness are all briefly discussed. The poet's...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||10 - God and Mammon: The Wealth of Literary Memory||This second lecture on Paradise Lost looks at hell and its inhabitants, as depicted in Books I and II. Milton's struggle both to match and outdo his literary predecessors is examined by way of allusions to the works of Homer and Edmund...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||11 - The Miltonic Smile||Milton's characteristic use of simile is explored in Books One and Two of Paradise Lost. Particular attention is paid to how Milton's similes work to support, undermine, and complicate both the depiction of Satan and the broader thematic...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||12 - The Blind Prophet||This lecture focuses on the invocation to light at the beginning of Book Three of Paradise Lost. Milton's factual and figurative understanding of his blindness is traced through his letters, Sonnet XXII, and the later epic Samson Agonistes. Particular...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||13 - Paradise Lost, Book III||In this second lecture on Book Three of Paradise Lost, the dialogue between God and the Son in heaven is explored with particular attention paid to Milton's modification of the Calvinist theory of predestination. The terms and implications of Milton's...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||14 - Paradise Lost, Book IV||This lecture examines Book Four's depiction of Adam and Eve and the sexual politics of life in Eden. Seventeenth-century political theory, particularly the work of Thomas Hobbes, is considered with a focus on then-contemporary...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||15 - Paradise Lost, Books V-VI||The description of human sexual hierarchy in Book Four of Paradise Lost is contrasted with the depiction of angelic hierarchy in Book Five. Both the Archangel Raphael's and Satan's accounts and theories of creation are examined. The poem's...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||16 - Paradise Lost, Books VII-VIII||This lecture on Books Seven and Eight of Paradise Lost focuses on Milton's account of the Creation. The poet's persistent interest in the imagery of digestion is explored with help from the proto-scientific theories of the seventeenth-century...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||17 - Paradise Lost, Book IX||Book Nine and the depiction of the Fall are presented. Adam and Eve's dialogue -- especially their perspectives on labor, temptation, and the nature of the garden -- is examined. Satan's strategic temptation of Eve is closely analyzed. At ...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||18 - Paradise Lost, Books IX-X||This second lecture on the Fall traces Milton's use of the word wander, in all of its forms, across the poem. The transformation of wander from its pre-fallen sense to its more nefarious incarnation following the transgression is examined closely...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||19 - Paradise Lost, Books XI-XII||Books Eleven and Twelve of Paradise Lost and their radical departure from the poem's previous style are discussed. The transformation of Milton's famously sonorous verse into a more didactic mode is closely documented, and the poem's...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||20 - Paradise Lost, Books XI-XII (cont.)||In this final lecture on Paradise Lost, Book Twelve's justification for the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden is examined alongside the Genesis account. The nature of Milton's God, whether literal or liberal, is examined at length...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||21 - Paradise Regained, Books I-II||This lecture treats the first two books of the sequel to Paradise Lost, Paradise Reqained. The difference in style and subject matter is described. The poem's depiction of the Son of God and Satan, specifically the characters' seeming inability to...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||22 - Paradise Regained, Books III-IV||In this second lecture on Paradise Regained, the three temptations are examined and Milton's unusual departure from their account in the Gospel of Luke is discussed. The poem's tacit assertion of the superiority of knowledge and ethics over action...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||23 - Samson Agonistes||This introduction to Samson Agonistes focuses on a psycho-sexual reading of the poem, with particular emphasis placed on the poem's peculiar association of sexuality with violence. The characterization of Dalila and her ...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||24 - Samson Agonistes (cont.)||In the final lecture of the course, the analysis of Samson Agonistes comes to a conclusion with an exploration of the poem's sexual imagery. Milton's choice of subject matter is puzzled over, as are the ethics of his tragic hero, particularly...||10/8/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
Excellent introduction to Milton
It took hearing -- rather than reading -- Paradise Lost (via the Lesser recording on Naxos) to get me into Milton, but once there Roger's course was enough to cement my interest in the works and the man. His personable, at times self-confessional style (how many Milton scholars would admit they watch soap operas) lightly carries the burden this most weighty of poets. Taking a generally chronological approach to the life and works, he discusses, with some degree of iconoclastic insight, Milton's involvement in politics, his family life, misogyny and blindness, among other things. My favorite moments are when Roger's does a "close reading" of a line or two, extracting deep meanings, often quite movingly. There usually is at least one of these in each lecture.
My main regret is that the lectures by Roger's two teaching fellows were not included, especially since one of them apparently covered Paradise Lost's Battle in Heaven. As portrayed by Milton this a sort of mash-up of the battles in the Lord of the Rings but with even grander cosmological consequences. (The script writers for the LOTR movies undoubtedly knew their Milton.)
The course presupposes some knowledge of the basic tenants of Christianity and the contents of the Bible, mainly the Old Testament. It also helps to have some background in Greek and Roman mythology. What you need to know can be looked up online or can usually be found in the footnotes of a good printed edition of Milton (such as the new one by Kerrigan or the old one by Hughes, the latter being the edition used in the course).
I loved these lectures and didn't want them to end. I hope there will be more courses by John Rogers available!
Very enjoyable series
The professor obviously enjoys Milton and communicates that joy as well. His enthusiasm and ease of lecturing make him another of the very nice Yale lecturers (and, no, I didn't go there). He criticizes when he feels Milton deserves it but overall the approach is very evenhanded and the emphasis is on the beauty and artistry of Milton's poetry, along with discussions of the prose works, especially Milton's Areopagitica and his justification of regicide.
And, rightly, about half the course is on "Paradise Lost". My small caveat (I would give it 4 1/2 if I could) is based on what I feel are occasional leaps of interpretation -- which the professor DOES often indicate as such -- that seem an academic's need to find "something" new. Other writers are also referenced who support similar leaps.
Anyway, we're all adults here and we can each decide to agree or not, to investigate further or to read the original again more carefully. And I suppose if it gets one to address the works with more attention to those other possibilities (however much I might tend to disagree with some of those possibilities) and widen our scope of accessibility to the works, then it can only help, even if in the end our original interpretations are nonetheless reinforced. They are then stronger for having experienced the friction of alternate views. In any case, I found the course rewarding, sending me back in particular to "Paradise Lost" with a renewed enthusiasm and curiosity.
As with several other Yale courses, and courses from many other universities as well, this is such a great opportunity for those of us who were unable for various reasons to have attended such schools or to have taken such classes to get a taste -- many tastes! -- later in life of what was missed, and to do so basically for free.