[Milton-L] taylor v smith, shakespeare v milton

Justin Kolb jbkolb at wisc.edu
Mon May 19 14:44:20 EDT 2008

I think this Machacek and Berglund's line of thinking here is dead on. The "Battle of the Bards" framing is silly, but if it helps to reinsert these great writers into the wider discourse, it's all for the good. I also argree that yes, Milton is difficult, and the fact that works like PL are dense and challenging and cosmic in scope is best used as a selling point for students, not something to be apologized or held up as a reason that the barabrous youth will never get it.

Of course, I've found that the best way to make PL seem accesible is to teach it in the same semester as The Faerie Queene. Blank verse comes as blessed relief after slogging through Spenser's stanzas.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Berglund, Lisa" <BERGLUL at buffalostate.edu>
Date: Monday, May 19, 2008 11:39 am
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] taylor v smith, shakespeare v milton
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>

> I have always found more success in engaging students with Milton when 
> I
>  talk about how difficult he is than if I try the soft sell. Yes, some
>  bail out immediately but most want to accept the challenge that Milton
>  poses. I often specifically observe that Milton is more difficult than
>  Shakespeare, who (as the most commonly taught early modern writer) is
>  the average college student's benchmark of literary obscurity. In
>  effect, Milton dares them to be his "fit audience though few" and many
>  students want to rise to the bait.
>  Lisa Berglund, Ph.D. 
>  Associate Chair, English Department 
>  Buffalo State College, SUNY 
>  Executive Secretary, Dictionary Society of North America 
>  Work: 716-878-4049; Fax: 716-878-5700 
>  berglul at buffalostate.edu 
>  Greg Machacek wrote, in part: I hate it that we have "sell" the guy to
>  an intellectually lazy generation, but if he's going to survive at all,
>  it will be as a result of how well we do sell him to them.  Because, 
> on
>  another level, the Battle of the Bards is always going on.  And Milton's
>  true opponents aren't Shakespeare and Chaucer, but "My Name is Earl,"
>  "The Matrix," and "Grand Theft Auto IV." 
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