Synopsis of Class: September 12, 2000

We finished up the Odyssey today with the playing of Sleater-Kinney's "The End of You," after which we plunged ahead into Milton's Paradise Lost. We spent a good portion of the class practicing for both the mid-term and first paper by exploring the ways in which Milton's invocations in Book I (lines 1-26) and Book III (lines 1-55) rework the conventions of epic form that we discussed last class and how these changes may reflect the socio-historical changes that I have charted in a previous class synopsis. We discussed a number of issues including the alignment of the fallen angels with the gods of polytheism; the invocation of a new Muse that dwells "Above th' Aonian mount" (the dwelling pace of the 9 classical muses; thanks to Eric McCrory for this one); the foregrounding of Milton as author (including mention of his political ordeals and his blindness); a new form of punishment as we move from Satan's to Adam and Eve's transgression (Milton claims, after all, that he seeks to "justify the ways of God to men"); a claim to originality (Milton "pursues/ Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme") rather than the wish to repeat well-known oral tales (thanks to Beth Dick for this one); a wish to put the reader through temptation by first offering a charismatic Satan (thanks to Lilly Ewing for this one), thus, as Meg Lowry added, challenging the reader to question his/her beliefs ("fit audience find, though few," Milton states at 7.31); a desire perhaps to affect politics through a new Puritan understanding of religion (thanks to Melissa Young-Spillers); a turn to colloquial language (rather than Latin) to make his tale accessible to all literate readers, thus following the Puritan belief that each reader should have the opportunity to access the Bible directly (rather than through a church hierarchy), alhtough Milton does, nonetheless, mimic the alien sentence constructions of Latin in order to raise the style of his own tale; and an emphasis on inner vision rather than external display (with Milton's blindness as the perfect metaphor for that introspection). For yet a further reading of this invocation, you can find a sample mid-term response to a question about invocations in your course Reader.

We finished the class by setting up the groups for the Trial of Satan, which will occur on October 5, and beginning our preparations for that event.

Next Class Synopsis