Description of Course Goals and CurriculumWe will explore John Milton's entire career, largely as poet, but also as prose writer and thinker: a lifelong effort to unite the aims of intellectual, political and literary experimentation. In doing so Milton made himself the most influential non-dramatic poet in the English language. We will spend much time with Paradise Lost, regarded by many as the greatest non-dramatic poem in English or any modern language; we will encounter Milton's profound, extensive learning and his startling innovations with words, and in ideas of personal, domestic and communal liberty. Professor Smith was both the professor and preceptor as it was a relatively small course. Each lecture, we dissected different passages from John Milton’s major works, focusing mostly on Paradise Lost. At the beginning of the semester, Professor Milton offered an “overnight” reading where we read all of Paradise Lost in a matter of hours. Overall, he wanted us to find something within the text we thought was meaningful and interesting enough to write a large final paper on. This course did not emphasize how much you can memorize or your analysis skills necessarily. For someone with a pre-med/Woody Woo background, they will likely still feel like they can ask any questions and have them answered. The beginning of the course began looking at Milton’s shorter poetry works and the last two-thirds of the course were dedicated to reading Paradise Lost. The course is chronological and centered around the reading of Paradise Lost At the beginning, it was difficult to understand the subtleties in Milton’s writing, but Professor Smith works extra hard to work with you in understanding this text. To learn course content, make sure to get reading done before class but don’t worry too much if you have comprehended everything perfectly. In class, Professor Smith clarifies a lot and directs your attention to the themes you should focus on. No background knowledge is needed. Just an interest in reading John Milton and Paradise Lost. Some might think there might be hidden expectations or demands or that they be the one non-English major in this class, but this was not the case. Professor Smith’s expectations were very transparent and he helps you develop any idea you may have for papers.
Learning From Classroom InstructionStudents are expected to take away a better understanding of John Milton’s writing and a newfound analysis of the text. For lecture, Professor Smith does much of the talking and dissecting of passages. Precept is mainly used for students to ask questions and offer their analysis Before each precept, make note of specific questions you have from lecture or from readings. Before lecture, make sure you read the assigned books from Paradise Lost so that you 1) don’t have to read the whole text at the end of the semester and 2) are starting to be on the look-out for themes you may want to discuss in the big end-of-term paper.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThere are no problem sets. There is one take-home midterm that is closed book and closed note. To prepare for this midterm, look over class notes and make a list of characters Professor Smith makes mention of, important passages, and themes. Bullet point important notes under each item in this list. Lastly, pay attention to important terminology Milton or his characters use. Rather than memorizing things from the text, try to understand their meaning. This will help you not only understand Milton’s intent a little better, but also better prepare you for the midterm. The final paper is about 15-20 pages on any topic of your choosing. Go into Professor Smith’s office early to discuss ideas with him. He’s extremely supportive and will also help you get a narrower scope for a valid argument.
External ResourcesThere really aren’t external resources. Students should recognize the importance of speaking with Professor Smith himself, especially since he just loves what he teaches.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionStudents from a liberal arts background in high school may already know if they are interested in reading Paradise Lost and John Milton. That said, a liberal arts background is not needed. This course offers a rare opportunity to be in a small class size, learn from a professor who may tear up in the middle of reading a powerful passage, and explore topics like religion, love, politics, and power in an English class.