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COURSE TITLE: Milton and the 17th Century
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3(hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 0)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: In this survey of 17th-Century literature, we will explore the ways that writers of this era both register and precipitate the changes that take place during the period. We will also investigate the tensions that exist between the old and the new as early modern thoughts abou society, science and the sacred take shape.

Prerequisites: ENGL 215 and at least 3 credits in English at the 300-level
  • Flannagan, Roy, ed. The Riverside Milton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
  • Rudrum, Alan, Joseph Black, Holly Faith Nelson, eds. Peterborough, Ont.:The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-century Verse and Prose, 2000.
Reading quizzes10%
Author Presentation18%
Paradise Lost Presentation17%
Term Paper35%
Final Exam20%
COURSE OBJECTIVES: This course is about passion: personal passion, passion for the state and for God. The people we will meet this term lived large. They believed that important changes were happening within them and all around them, and they wanted desperately to make sure that those changes turned out well. For many, this is the age of science and discovery. New ideas about science change the way that seventeenth-century people understand their world. For others, this is the age of church reform when Protestantism from the continent begins to make waves and, ultimately, to change the governmental structure in Britain.

In this course we will explore the significant points of intersection that occur between ideas about the natural world, church and state as they are reflected in British literature of the 1600’s. As we will discover, the stories that are told during this period reflect and, indeed help to construct, the revolutionary concepts in all three areas that continue to shape our 21st century understandings. In other words, these ideas, these people, affect us. We’ll spend the term learning to recognize their influence.

At the very center of this study is Milton and his epic Paradise Lost. This poem, more than any other work I can think of, best represents the connection between the 17th C and our own. As you will notice, we have planned time to soak in this poem, to absorb the beauty of the language and debate the multitude of theological, social and political questions it asks. Although we will begin by reading the story of “why Eve ate the fruit” (which is, of course, interesting in and of itself: haven’t you always wanted to know?) we will conclude by reading ourselves. You cannot come away from this work without evaluating what you believe and why you believe it.

In short, this course is an invitation to grow personally and intellectually. This is a four hundred level course, so the reading load is heavy. Expect to read on average 15 to 20 pages for each class. You will be evaluated periodically on this reading.

Our approach to the material will be largely thematic and approximately chronological;the essay assignment will give you the opportunity to approach the material in other ways.
  • Introduction to the Early 17th Century
  • Francis Bacon
  • Robert Burton
  • Sir Thomas Browne
  • Aemilia Lanyer: "The Author's Dream"
  • John Donne
  • Ben Jonson
  • John Milton: Lycidas
  • Paradise Lost
  • Guest Lecture: Andrew Bingham 'Identity in Time: the Significance of Tradition for Our Era'
  • Introduction to the late Seventeenth Century
  • John Bunyan The Pilgrim's Progress
  • Diaries : Samuel Pepys's Diary
  • John Wilmont, "Impromptu in Charles II" 

Required texts, assignments, and grade distributions may vary from one offering of this course to the next. Please consult the course instructor for up to date details.

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