History: E317_Paper_Spr_13

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General Prompt. Choose one or two assigned texts and, focusing on issues you find relevant and manageable, write a 5-7 page essay specific in its initial thesis, easy to follow in structure, and clear and consistent in style. (Graduates, if any are enrolled in this class, should write a 10-15 page essay that engages with both primary and secondary material.)

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- <b>1. TBD</b>
+ <b>1. We have read three prose selections by Milton: "Areopagitica," "The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates," and part of <i>The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.</i> Choose any one of these and explore the insights to be drawn from the prose piece in connection to one of the longer poetic works we have read: <i>Paradise Lost,</i> <i>Paradise Regained,</i> or <i>Samson Agonistes.</i> How does the earlier prose change or enhance our understanding of the later poetic work? Another sub-question might be, has Milton modified or complicated any of the doctrines in his prose to suit his poetic enterprise and argument? If so, how?</b><b>2. Lady Alice in <i>Comus</i> undergoes a temptation at the hands of the masque's title character, but to what extent does it compare to the temptation that Eve fails in <i>Paradise Lost?</i> To broaden the question's scope, in comparison to <i>Paradise Lost</i> or <i>Paradise Regained,</i> how does this masque represent evil and the means brought to bear by the good to resist it? What accounts for any differences you may encounter in this regard?</b><b>3. It has been said since the Romantic Era that Milton's devil in <i>Paradise Lost</i> is a more energetic, interesting character than his flawless God and Son of God. That may be true with regard to pure storytelling, but there's a great deal more going on in the epic than Satan's exploits. Explore the subtleties of Milton's task in representing God and the Son in <i>Paradise Lost:</i> to what extent, and by what means, does Milton make the Deity dramatically plausible and His ideas and conversation comprehensible? To what extent does he deliberately dwell on the impossibility of representing such perfection, and how does he perhaps even take advantage of that impossibility to drive home certain themes that you find central in the epic?</b>

- <b>2. TBD</b>
+ <b>4. William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley, along with many other interpreters of <i>Paradise Lost,</i> have insisted that Milton, as a "true poet and therefore of the Devil's Party" (Blake's phrase in <i>The Marriage of Heaven and Hell</i>) just couldn't help giving Satan the dramatic edge. That reading rings at least partially true since otherwise the poem would lack interest. Still, how does Milton bring out the flawed quality of Satan as an epic hero? How does he manipulate classical epic conventions and manage comparisons between characters to undercut the reader's sympathy with Satan? How do Satan's logic and his rhetoric turn back on him and damage his case against God and for dominion over Hell and Earth?</b>

- <b>3. TBD</b>
+ <b>5. Focus on the complexities of the Narrator of <i>Paradise Lost:</i> the Narrator is, of course, a kind of character in this epic, one that Milton must establish and develop much like any other (especially since the Miltonic narrator isn't as distanced from the action or as "objective" as epic narrators like those of Homer and Virgil). So how (especially but not necessarily exclusively) in the invocations that occur at the beginning of Books 1, 3, 7, and 9, does the Narrator establish sufficient authenticity and authority to tell so grand and complex a story as human history in its relation to the goings-on in heaven? Some other sub-questions might be: at what points does the Narrator bring his own "fallen" frailty into play, and even make them work to his advantage as a storyteller? At what points does he seem willing to suggest that he has at least to some degree transcended that frailty in the name of articulating the poem's argument and telling a story that must be told well? How do his glosses on the epic's events and characters impact our understanding and attitude towards them?</b>

- <b>4. TBD</b>
+ <b>6. Many critics and readers have noted that a fair amount of <i>Paradise Lost</i> revolves around trying to represent the unrepresentable. Such commentary as emerges from this realization often (though of course not always) centers on the representation of God. But the landscapes of this epic also present Milton with a complex task when it comes to representation: how exactly does one represent Hell, for example? Or the Garden of Eden before the Fall of Adam and Eve? Choose something aside from God and His Son and examine what you find to be the thematic or theological/ethical difficulties and opportunities inherent in such an attempt to represent something or some character that, strictly speaking, isn't representable without much alteration and "accommodation" of mortal sensibilities.</b>

- <b>5. TBD</b>
+ <b>7. We discussed in class the fact that in <i>Paradise Regained,</i> more or less whatever Satan tempts the Son of God with, the latter has already rejected in his own private meditations before Satan even begins tempting him. This suggests, in turn, that the basis for Satan's (admittedly attenuated) confidence in his chances for success may lie elsewhere than in the direct content of his temptation of Jesus. The same goes for our own interest in this epic, which of course can't compete with its lengthier prequel in terms of scope and narratival energy. Choose a small number of scenes in <i>Paradise Regained</i> and explore them in light of this "indirectness": how, for example, do the scenes you choose help us understand the true qualities of and basis for our interest in Satan's temptation of Jesus?</b>


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