[Milton-L] Best initial critical work

Tony Demarest tonydemarest at hotmail.com
Thu Dec 27 17:14:21 EST 2007


Dear List- I am old school, very old school- so old, Fish had not yet written the first edition of Surprised by Sin, and yet, in this dotage, I find myself conscripted to teach Milton at a small college because I am both old and medieval in specialty. I recently retired from 41 years of administration in public education and have found a wonderful via secunda teaching Beowulf, Chaucer, and Malory- but because of the college's size, I also teach Milton in an undergraduate, very undergraduate situation.My question is this, and please sense the roughness of my preparation- I have just re-read Lewis's Preface to PL and have found it delightful at times, and maudlin at others- a reaction I had not had in 1963. Then I tried Fish's Surprised by Sin. I had read that it is not only a major work of Miltonic criticism, but also the birthplace of reader/response criticism. Aside from the almost impossible task of wading through the Preface to the Second Edition, I have found the majority of the main text to be dreadfully repetitious and unenlightening.I realize I am a babe in all this, but I have been raised on Practical Criticism, and found Nicholson and Lewis to be quite adequate as introductory critics. Could you, in a kind manner, explain what I am missing in Fish, better yet, how I am missing it; after that suggest a solid "practical" critical text for Paradise Lost? I would be grateful, and so, I think will my students. Tony
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