[Milton-L] why teach Milton to college students?

Margaret Thickstun mthickst at hamilton.edu
Mon Jan 26 10:51:37 EST 2004

Julia--I am in the process of writing the introduction to a book on 
moral education in Paradise Lost, and I plan to answer this question 
definitively in it :-).  I would be happy to share the first 5-7 
pages of it with you, which outlines the "state of the art" thinking 
about moral development in the college years.  Who is your audience 
for these essays?

Of the essays in Crump's Approaches, I find these statements most useful:

"Thus the poem must invite sophisticated psychological and moral 
judgments of a kind intrinsic to all valid education" (Richmond in 
Crump 150).

"the students become passionately involved in a text that, indeed, 
turns out to be about themselves" (Mankoff in Crump 74).

"Milton's fierce insistence on free will raises questions my students 
like to ponder about various modern determinisms" (Wooten in Crump 

"Addressing fundamental issues about the nature of good and evil and 
the human condition, it exercises its audience and encourages growth 
through the tests and experiences it embodies" (McCutcheon in Crump 

These are not "literary" answers, I realize.  Crump makes the 
"literary" argument in his opening salvo:

"There is little argument regarding the importance of Milton an his 
epic, as they summarize the great literary traditions filtering down 
to the Renaissance in England and as they provide the monument with 
which much later literature must cope, whether it sees that monument 
as something to emulate or execrate" (Crump 1).

But, frankly, I think the moral development arguments more 
compelling, and more appropriate to discussions of undergraduate 

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