History: E317_Paper_Spr_13

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5. Focus on the complexities of the Narrator of Paradise Lost: 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?
+ 6. Many critics and readers have noted that a fair amount of Paradise Lost 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.
+ 7. We discussed in class the fact that in Paradise Regained, 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 Paradise Regained 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?


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