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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.

Customer Reviews

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.