[Milton-L] response to Richard Strier, et al, on Greenblatt

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Sep 16 17:21:47 EDT 2015

Thanks for the comment and history, but I am skeptical about one claim.  I do not believe that your students in the '80's actually could read PL on their own, with no help except historical and critical contextualization.  Maybe they were better at faking it, but the poem is not easy, on first acquaintance, for ANYONE to read.  So again -- though I may indeed be mistaken -- think that the contrast is being overdrawn.


From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Crystal L Bartolovich [clbartol at syr.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 12:20 PM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: [Milton-L] response to Richard Strier, et al, on Greenblatt

Totally agree with Richard that Greenblatt appears to give up too easily
in that piece.

But, on the other hand, I must admit that I have had to shift the teaching
of my upper division Milton class considerably over the years. When I
first started teaching as a grad student in the 1980s, I could presume
that most students could get Shakespeare AND Milton on their own and so I
spent class time only on broader critical and historical issues.  I
definitely cannot make that assumption with Milton now or an alarming
number of students would fail.

Even honors students truly cannot read Milton at first AT ALL.  So, at the
beginning of the term, I have to have the students read a few lines out
loud and venture to say what they mean‹ every student, in turn, in every
class.  THIS IS REALLY REALLY HARD for my students (who are not U Chicago
undergrads, admittedly) to do, but between this rigorous in-class work,
and ample paraphrasing homework, most of them DO get it, and we can spend
time on more sophisticated questions of interpretation.

But some of them require very considerable coaching during office hours
until the very end, and a few fail.  So I don¹t think that the diagnosis
of less verbal facility is false, but rather that there are antidotes
other than throwing in the towel and letting them make films or
whatever‹and that those other remedies are more valuable.

By far I get the most notes of appreciation from Milton students, saying
how proud they are that they stuck the course out and how much they

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