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

Julia Major jmajor at ucdavis.edu
Mon Jan 26 11:03:08 EST 2004


Thank you, Margaret, for your generous offer.  I do appreciate the chance
to read your introduction.  The audience for my thoughts on the matter is
small but distinguished:  just Peter Medine, who is directing the NEH
Summer Institute on Paradise Lost in Phoenix.

Gratefully yours,

Julia


> 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 
> 63).
> 
> "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 
> 40).
> 
> 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 
> curricula.--Margie
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