[Milton-L] Paradise Lost reading

Paula Loscocco ploscocco at slc.edu
Wed Mar 21 10:48:03 EDT 2007

Hi, Ann.

I used to do marathons every year at Barnard & *loved* them.  Since I
planned them ahead of time, I could do things like have the students
cluster into groups of 2-4 & do "dramatic performances" of a few key
scenes of their own choice, which they first did in class when we got to
that passage in our reading of PL, but later expanded to something more
spectacular for the marathon reading.  I also sent out invitations to
colleagues, inviting them either to join one of these dramatic
interpolations or simply to attend the reading.  I also got some graduate
students at CU to offer their services--one had memorized book I while
commuting for several years & that's how we started off my last two
marathons, with his solo recitation from memory of the whole book, which
utterly blew away the students (& me) & set a high standard for the
rest--you never know what graduate students do in spare time!

That's all ahead of time.  For the day itself, I ordered a LOT OF
FOOD--this was essential.  A full reading ran from breakfast at around
8:30 to dinner around 6:30.  I had breakfast ready for them when they came
(using campus dining services).  Breakfast was removed & lunch (long hero
sandwiches cut into individual portions & fruit & chips & cookies & drinks
& ALWAYS COFFEE) brought in at noon.  Lunch was removed at some point &
fruit left out for snacks--a big bowl of APPLES for Book IX.  I told them
to each bring water bottles for themselves.  At dinner, my husband arrived
with lots of pizzas, which we ate when it was all over.  I kept the food
simple & wholesome until the pizzas, since we had to live with the taste &
smell all day.  Good to do in April when you can open windows, by the way.
 A crowded room is a crowded room.

I sent out a program advertizing it & also posted it widely the week
before.  Program listed the event, noted the interpolated dramatizations &
who would be involved (very appealing if some faculty and admin are
involved, since listing them there draws crowds), and a very rough sense
of approx times for each book.  (I'll see if I can find my notes.  Not

Then we simply read it thru.  We barely stopped.  I think we had breakfast
first, and stopped very briefly to fill plates for lunch, and for a
stretch after IX, but that was it.  Marathon was rquired for class
members.  Others came & went as they wished.  Wondrous to hear students go
from COMPLETE inabilit to read poetry aloud orally to, 10 hours later,
SUPERB poetic-reading skills, developed over course of day.  Also to see
how each group handled the end--one year, as ending loomed, students
hogged the reading (I'd told them to read roughly a verse paragraph, or
whatever thye wanted, which varied in the round-robin reading we did all
day, according to their wishes), tryin gto be the one who finished it;
another year, seeing the ending in sight, they voluntarily read less &
less, trying to share the wonder with as many present as possible, very
poignant.  Colleageus are VERY helpful.  An old eccentric
physics/astronomy professor always showed up JUST when we needed God to
speak, and shocked the students to death when his voice boomed out of
nowhere in Yaweh-like tones.  Having the president volunteer to be Satan
the year I was denied tenure worked well too, not least b/c she swept in &
out of the marathon for just that scene, entourage in tow, without
participating in any other part of the marathon, quite unlike the other
admistrators and faculty, to students' horror....  ;-)

Oh, another thing.  I got a big blank black-covered book & made it a
"marathon log," with stringed pen attached, told students about it ahead
of time & asked them to write anything they wanted about the poem, the
marathon, their thoughts, anything at all, as we proceeded.  Shy at first,
but they wrote more & more, read each other's postings, added or
elaborated, and as the years when by, saw what others had written.  Fun
for them but eventually a profoudn treasure for me.

I miss teaching Milton, which I cannot do at SLC b/c Bill Shullenberger
does it.  He'd let me do so anytime, but it would be institutional suicide
to do so until the Literature department convinces the college to
regularize the 18th-c position I'm currently filling.  Maybe someday.... 
The marathon was sort of famous there for a while, and a tremendous lot of
fun.  I do miss it.

Hope this helps.  Have fun & let me know how it goes. I've attached my
Best, Paula

> At the semester's eleventh hour, I have decided to organize a complete
> read
> through of Paradise Lost.  I know other people have done this---can you
> point me to discussions of how it works or give me pointers from your own
> experience?
> many thanks,
> Ann Coiro
> _______________________________________________
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> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
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> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
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