[Milton-L] PL marathon report

Paul Yoder rpyoder at ualr.edu
Tue Feb 4 11:03:23 EST 2014

Let me apologize in advance for the length of this post.  Nonetheless, I
thought you might be interested.  I'm currently teaching a class on Milton
at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a metropolitan university
with a largely non-traditional student body.  On Sunday we had a PL
marathon.  We gathered around 8am and started reading about 8:20.  By
3:30pm, weather conditions had deteriorated pretty badly so I called a halt
to the  proceedings after we finished Bk. VI; we're scheduled to finish on
Feb. 23.  I like to get the whole poem in their heads before we begin the
book-by-book discussion.  Below are some of the student responses,
cut-and-pasted from this week's reading journals.  My colleagues all think
I'm a bit crazy for doing things like this, and they are frankly shocked
that I can fill a class with people eager to read Milton -- the class has
21 students.  I want to thank my own Milton teachers for introducing me to
Milton and giving me the confidence to do this.  Anna Nardo at LSU was my
first Milton teacher. That class changed my life, and that's what I tell my
own students about why they should take this class.  At Duke my Milton
class was team-taught by Stanley Fish and Annabelle Patterson -- yes, you
read that right.  It was amazing.

I can't thank you all enough.


And now, here's what my students had to say.  Enjoy.

  Wow!  What a class.  I am glad that we cut it off when we where half way
through "Paradise Lost"- 7 hours is long enough.  I noticed when we were
reading that Milton's phrasing has contributed to a lot of our "modern"
sayings, ie.'the hounds of hell' (with a truly disgusting picture brought
to mind of how they are continually reborn) and 'the stairway to heaven'
just being a couple of his sayings that stand out.

     Milton made me imagine Eden in a whole new way.  I like it.  I always
just envisioned a big garden.  Milton brings more to the area.

     I think that I have so many thoughts about it all that I probably just
need to sleep on it to figure out part of what I want to focus on.  Of
course, that will probably change and evolve as I learn more of the
meaning.  This is fun!


I absolutely loved the Milton marathon. What surprised me most was how much
humor there was in each book. I expected everything to be so serious and I
was pleasantly surprised. I'm so excited to get to books nine and ten. The
one thing I'm concerned about is all the names and references. I feel like
I'll have to read and re-read several times before I catch everything
that's going on. I definitely picked up on a lot more reading as a group
with Doc Yoder there to answer questions than I normally do reading
literature. I'm so excited for our next marathon and to actually read
through the fall.


Sunday was fantastic. Admittedly, I'm kind of glad that we went home when
we did, though. The cold weather did quite a number on my joints (they lock
up and get sore in sudden storm fronts), so I was feeling rough. Plus this
way we won't be all mentally exhausted by the time we make it to the last
few books. In any case, it was a fun and engaging experience and I'm
looking forward to the second day of it.  . . . It's a great poem, but it's
very dense and that can be a bit overwhelming I suppose.  I feel like I
have a better grasp on it now that I've heard it out loud, in any case.


Let me first say that Milton, because of Paradise Lost, may be the most
Metal poet ever (that IS Metal with a capital M).  The image of Death
grinning? Brrrr.  I'm pretty sure that's a Judas Priest album cover.  Could
Clive Barker or Stephen King conjure a more disturbing image than Satan's
daughter, Sin? Holy crap, I mean, from what deep dark pit of inhumanity in
Milton's soul did he cull that? Satan being sliced in twain by Michael's
sword? The descriptions of Hell and Chaos? Have Norwegian Black Metal bands
read this thing? Now that's out of the way.  I was surprised how compelling
the poem is, due not in small part to the aforementioned scenes.   Though
Milton is trying to ask and answer these deeper theological concerns
through his elaboration of the fall, he must have been aware that the
reader had to be kept interested through such a long work, right?


Let me just start off by saying that Milton is undeniably fucking amazing.
I mean, who even thinks up something like Death raping his mother and then
impregnating her with hell hounds who happen to be her legs, or something?
Anyways, I really enjoyed the marathon, it definitely made rereading the
first book much easier and much more enjoyable than it probably would have
been otherwise. I can't wait until the next one!

I can kind of see how Satan spawned Sin now. Since pride is the father of
all sins, and Satan is the first sinner and his sin was pride. Therefore,
the moment Satan began thinking that he was equal to God, Sin was spawned.
Its kind of awesome how Sin is sort of both a metaphorical and a physical
being (in the way that Lucifer and the other angels are). I feel like I'm
just stating something that's obvious. Speaking of pride and Satan, he has
a lot of it. He acts like he doesn't even have an army standing behind him.
I don't think he stops to think that maybe the others were unhappy in
heaven too, I feel like he just thinks that because he's so awesome and
equal in power to God (which is adorable) that the others are just like,
"He's awesome, I'll follow him no matter what his aims are!" Also, when
Satan is talking Beezlebub, is he saying that he wants a democracy? But
really, its one of those things where you just want to be ruler so you
start a revolution/rebellion.


Like everyone else, I was completely blown away by the first half of *Paradise
Lost*.  I have to admit I was expecting the day to drag on, but at the end
of the sixth book, I was ready for more, although having a fresh start for
the second half will surely promote memory and comprehension.


Today words like "epic" and "awesome" are overused, never really being used
to their full potential. as the rest of the class will agree, Paradise Lost
is so full of awe and truly epic. The grand scale and scope of Milton's
"vision" is more than a movie or video game could ever handle, and
honestly, Milton's words are probably lacking compared to the actual
imagination engine that must have been brightly roaring behind those blind
eyes. I mean, if this is what Milton wrote, just think about what he was
"seeing". I have a sense that most people unfamiliar with Paradise Lost
(commoners) might just see it as a Bible companion in verse. However, after
sitting down and trying to picture and play out in my own imagination what
Milton is describing, I can only think of people who describe things as
"badass" and laugh. Paradise Lost is beyond cool. beyond Fonzie cool.
Beyond Superman fighting goku cool. I hear a million guitars burning the
world down. Paradise Lost makes God seem like a joke and Lucifer seem like
the rebel outcast King of cool.  I mean Satan is one cold cat. After being
cut in half by Michael's "Angelic Fiend-Splitter" he just shakes it off and
puts himself back together. I would pay all my money and kill someone just
to get to witness a battle like that.


The reason I took this class was because my exposure to Milton was almost
nonexistent, and as an English major about to graduate, it seemed prudent
to fill this knowledge gap. The marathon was awesome, and I feel like SO
MUCH of that gap has been filled...even though we're only on Paradise Lost,
and only half-way through. I've been missing out. I'm both disappointed
that I don't get to stick the 11 Hour Marathon Reader feather in my cap,
but also glad I can prepare for the next reading...I'm bringing floor
cushions. . . .

Sin, well. There's really probably nothing on the internet that could show
you guys what was in my head when trying to imagine sin. I had some really
horrifying nightmares that night. First time I've had a nightmare about
school that didn't involve showing up to a class I didn't know was on my
schedule on the last day of the semester.


            I'm pretty much in agreement with everyone else here.  The
first six books of *Paradise Lost* were really amazing.  I wasn't sure what
to expect--I've never been introduced to it before--and I was blown away.  I
was also really dreading the day and how long we were going to be reading,
but it went by pretty fast.  I will admit that while I wanted to finish the
other half, but my mind was also wandering.  I'm normally doodling after
twenty minutes in class, so seven hours was pushing it for me.

            "The mind is its own place, and in it self

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n."

                                    Lines 254-255

I underlined this when we were reading because it spoke to me.  It was
probably one of my favorite lines in all that we read.  We talked briefly
about how this was pre-John Locke and that Milton was addressing
psychology, and this one part was immediately what spoke to me.  It just
makes me think of optimism and pessimism and how the mind is exactly like
that.  It can make the best and worst of the worst and best, respectively.

Also, as many have spoken on Sin, all I could think of when it said that
she was subjected to the hourly conception and birth was ouch.  I can't
even imagine.  As for her middle/legs, I sort of pictured Ursula from The
Little Mermaid.  I mean, the hounds just made me think of tentacles, but
still, that was crazy.


Doc Yoder, this read-along is the best idea. It felt like storytime;
instead of tedious, reading about the adventures of Satan became
exhilarating. Somehow listening to the lines rather than reading them
silently makes the winding strings of words more comprehensible (not to
mention it helps to be held accountable; obviously we've got to keep up if
we want to be ready for our turn to read).

Milton's syntax is really something else, though now I realize its beauty,
especially when it comes to those epic similes. The last time I read
Paradise Lost, I was just trying to get through it. Now I'm looking forward
to what comes next.


I've got to admit, the marathon was awesome. *Paradise Lost* is turning out
to be a really good read, although the group reading and discussion made it
so much better than when I sat down and tried to read it alone.  I am a
little glad we cut the story to two days. Admittedly sitting through all 12
books Sunday would have probably put me to sleep by book 10. One can only
sit in one spot for so long without going a little stir crazy.


First of all I was completely surprised by how quickly time passed during
the marathon reading. However, I was glad it was spread over two days so we
could actually have some conversation about the text without being there
until midnight. I loved the story line of paradise Lost. Milton does a
wonderful job of shedding an interesting light onto a very old story. One
thing I do want to see, though, is a movie of Paradise Lost. I especially
want to see the scene with the battle in heaven. How cool would that be?
The upside-down mountains and giant cannons, the two-handed engine swinging
through massive amounts of people, it would be a fantastic sight.


     Like everyone, I really enjoyed the marathon and found it a bonding
experience with the class, to be hanging out outside of class time and
eating. I always think food is a great way to bond and combining that with
reading "Paradise Lost" aloud was really cool and enjoying. I totally
stumbled a lot, felt like my turn was always filled with the difficult
names. Anyways, I'm really glad we did and are reading this altogether.
Everyone has awesome reading voices, I really enjoyed listening.

      I know I probably have said this before but Milton really does have
awesome quotes in general. Brianna mentioned it but, I want to bring it up
again because I completely agree and it really popped out at me and my own
personal belief you can say. "The mind is its own place, and in it self can
make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n." Although I agree, this is
something that would take this explanation to almost philosphical which in
truth, philosphy tends to give me a headache. It seems Milton incorporates
that along with his other brilliancy of knowledge. Milton and "Paradise
Lost" makes me think in a different way that I am used to in so many
levels. My brain felt pretty fried after we wrapped up, and I ended up
going to bed at 8;30.

       The war scene reminded me of greek mythology. I got the image of
zeus and the titans fighting with thunder and lightning in place of cannons
and swords. But the idea that the two planets colliding with each other is
nothing compared to the war between, the image of that sounds insane. That
is the most epic war ever.


I honestly originally had thought that Doc Yoder was exaggerating when he
had mentioned that Milton will begin to infiltrate our minds and other
classes. Well, considering that I have Doc Yoder for a second class, I
could easily explain the fact that I noticed parallels to that class.
However, I didn't actually expect that I would still be thinking about
Milton driving in my truck or in my spare time. I do tend to spend much of
my free time thinking, and usually it's about doctrinal subjects. So,
Milton fits comfortably in the mix. I truly did not expect this.


Wow that was probably the most I've ever read in one sitting.  The first
thing I want to do is apologize for having to leave in the middle of the
marathon, I had to pick up my girlfriend from work, and I wasn't planning
on having to do so until 5. Back to Paradise Lost, I was not expecting
Milton to have an imagination like one someone who took a little to much
LSD in one sitting.  I can't believe that no one has tried to make a movie
series about the piece.  It seems like if done right would be better than
Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but it would be quite the undertaking to
turn the crazy scenes from the poem into film, but I'm sure with today's
technology, and the right producer it would be sweet. I did enjoy reading
the book as a class it would take me forever to read that Alone simply
because I would have to stop ever 5 seconds and look up what the heck is
going on, but when you have a yoderpedia at your fingertips it sure helps.

R. Paul Yoder
Professor of English
2801 S. University
Little Rock, AR 72204-1099
Office Phone: 501.569.8321
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