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English 305

Spring 2014
English 305: Milton

3 credit hrs.
MWF 12:00-12:50
Library 105

Don W. King: Home page
Phone 828-545-3293 


COURSE DESCRIPTION: An intensive study of Milton's poetry with an emphasis on Comus, Samson Agonistes, and Paradise Lost

COURSE RATIONALE: Like Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Wordsworth, John Milton is a major figure in British literature. His work is much discussed and read even today, and his writings have influenced countless others through the years. For sheer learning and poetic prowess, he is unmatched in the English language. In addition, he wrote prolifically on matters of state, politics, marriage, and theology, and, thus, illustrates much about the seventeenth century English milieu. For these and other reasons he deserves our attention today.



John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose ed. by Merritt Hughes
A Reader's Guide to John Milton by Marjorie Hope Nicolson
A Preface to Paradise Lost by C. S. Lewis

Strongly recommended:

A Handbook to Literature, Eds. William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th ed), Ed. Joseph Gibaldi.

Also, see Oxford Reference Online www.oxfordreference.com for some basic reference assistance.  It contains desktop access to 100 key Oxford dictionaries and reference works. The Core Collection brings together 100 language and subject dictionaries and reference works - containing well over 60,000 pages - into a single cross-searchable resource.  Also, see the Oxford English Dictionary, the grandfather of all dictionaries at http://dictionary.oed.com 

COURSE OBJECTIVES: The central objective of this course is to expose you to a careful reading and study of the major poetic works of Milton. Because Milton’s poetry is often a statement about his life and beliefs, a secondary objective will be a general knowledge of his life and the political, social, and religious temper of seventeenth century England. A final objective will be an examination of Milton's extensive use of the Bible in his poetry.

Additionally, there are several questions we will consider as we work through Milton’s poetry, including, but not limited to:

  1. What accounts for the fact that Milton’s poetry is aesthetically beautiful, poetically powerful, and spiritually informative 

  2. What are the important literary qualities of Milton's minor poems

  3. How pivotal is a knowledge of Scripture when reading, analyzing, and interpreting Milton? What is his "view" of Scripture? Which biblical texts most inform Milton’s poetry, especially Paradise Lost?  

  4. In considering Milton’s life, what is the value of a comprehensive education informed by both classical and Christian traditions?

  5. What is Milton’s view of the relationship between passion and reason, flesh and spirit, body and soul, matter and spirit? Is his view biblical

  6. What is Milton’s view of marriage? Of the "proper" relationship between husbands and wives? 

  7. Who is the real hero of Paradise Lost and why 


  1. That you read and analyze several of Milton’s major short poems 

  2. That you read and analyze Milton’s poetic masterpiece, Paradise Lost

  3. That you be able to define a secondary (or literary) epic, and describe its key literary characteristics.

  4. That you write a book review concerning the work of Milton.

  5. That you write a long analytic research paper on Paradise Lost

  6. That you learn to value the literature covered in this course as something that can enrich your life, revealing the complexity of the human experience and informing your spiritual life.


Week 1 Introduction; Milton's life; Early prose and selected poems

Week 2 "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso"

Week 3 Comus

Week 4 Samson Agonistes

TEST/ESSAY February 5

Week 5  Paradise Lost; Introduction and Book I

Week 6 Book II

Week 7 Book III


Week 8 Book IV

Week 9 Book V

Weeks 10-11 Books VI, VII, and VIII


Week 12 Book IX

Week 13 Books X and XI

Week 14  Book XII



  1. There will be tests, essays, and journals that will count 60% of your grade in the course.

  2. A book review on one of the books from the course bibliography (see below) will count 10% (due by midnight, April 13, 2014)

  3. You will write one analytical paper (1,500 to 2,500 words) on some aspect of Paradise Lost; due by 10 a.m. May 6, 2014. This paper will count 20% of your final grade

  4. The remaining 10% will come from your class participation, discussion, regular attendance, homework, reserve and supplemental reading, group work, and various short writing assignments. 

  5. There are a total of 1000 pts possible in the course. Final grades will be compiled using the following guidelines:

    1000-900    A to A-
    899-800      B+ to B-
    799-700      C+ to C-
    699-600      D+ to D-


LIBRARY: All students are encouraged to take advantage of the services and resources available from the library.  You can search the online catalog and the library’s databases by going to http://www.montreat.edu/library/.  Select “Catalog” to search the online catalog or “Electronic Resources” to search the databases.  The catalog lists all of the books in the Montreat College library as well as the holdings of five other colleges.  You may check out books from all of these libraries.  In addition, you may request books or journal articles via interlibrary loan.  From the online catalog, you can also check on reserve materials by selecting “Reserve Desk” and searching by instructor name or course name.  

BIBLIOGRAPHY (available on 3-day reserve):

Achinstein, Sharon.  Milton and the Revolutionary Reader.
Blessington, Francis. Paradise Lost: A Student's Companion to the Poem.
Bloom, Harold, ed.  John Milton.
Bush, Douglas.  English Literature in the Earlier Seventeenth Century, 1600-1660.
------------.  Paradise Lost in Our Time.
Danielson, Dennis. The Cambridge Companion to Milton.
Ferry, Anne.  Milton's Epic Voice: The Narrator in Paradise Lost.

Fish, Stanley.  Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost.
Hanford, James H. John Milton, Englishman.
Kermode, Frank. The Living Milton.
King, John N.  Milton and Religious Controversy: Satire and Polemic in Paradise Lost.
Kishlansky, Mark.  A Monarchy Transformed:  Britain 1603-1714.
Martz, Louise Lohr.   Milton, Poet of Exile.
Milton, John.  Paradise Lost (Casebook).
Mulryan, John.  Milton and the Middle Ages.
Nicolson, Marjorie. John Milton: A Reader's Guide to His Poetry.
Rumrich, John P.  Milton Unbound: Controversy and Reinterpretation.
Schwartz, Regina M.  Remembering and Repeating: On Milton's Theology and Poetics.
Sims, James. The Bible in Milton’s Epics.
------------ and Leland Ryken, eds. Milton and Scriptural Tradition: The Bible into Poetry.
Steadman, John.  Milton's Biblical and Classical Imagery.
Thorpe, James. John Milton: The Inner Life.
Tillyard, E. M. W. The Elizabethan World Picture.
------------.  Studies in Milton.
Walker, Julia, ed. Milton and the Idea of Woman.

Wilson, A. N. The Life of John Milton.

Message from the Writing Center: To write a successful paper in this course, you will need to follow a process of planning, writing, and revising your papers.  The Writing Center tutors will work with you one-on-one on any or all parts of this process.  This academic service is available to assist you in becoming a confident writer, as both a student and a graduate. 

The Center is located on the top floor of the L. Nelson Bell Library in the back of the computer lab.  The Center is open Sunday – Thursday between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.  An appointment is not necessary.   If you are a day student or a non-traditional student, you may contact the Director, Kim Angle (kangle@montreat.edu).
In addition, please know that an excellent internet resource is available to you at all times‑‑Purdue University’s OWL (On‑line Writing Lab).  This site provides an “always on” and authoritative resource for composition, grammar, and citation.  The address is
ACADEMIC INTEGRITY:  For all individual assignments students are expected to present their own work; documentation of research must follow the MLA Handbook for Writer of Research Paper (you can access an online version of this at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/). Cases of academic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating and plagiarism, will result in either failure of the assignment or the course.
FINAL COMMENTS: This syllabus and other details about the course, including your grades for the course, are available through the college's online platform, Moodle.
I reserve the right to make minor changes to the syllabus and course requirements as we move through the semester.
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