ENGL402: The Poetry of John Milton

Course Syllabus for "ENGL402: The Poetry of John Milton"

In this course, we will study the poetry of John Milton, focusing not only on the texts themselves, but also on the various contexts that are relevant to Milton’s oeuvre, from the tumultuous political and religious period in which Milton lived to the literary network with which his texts interact. We will also take a close look at the man behind Paradise Lost, a man who brazenly announced, relatively early in his poetic career, that he would pen a great epic in the classical tradition. Who was John Milton, and how did he manage to accomplish this goal? Though Milton has gone in and out of literary favor since his death in 1674 (Romantic poets greatly valued his formal techniques as well as his figuration of Hell, while Modernists like T.S. Eliot scowled at his bookish, Puritan austerity), there is no question that Milton’s works shaped the face and the future of English poetry, as well as contemporary books, film, and culture. By the end of this course, you will possess a comprehensive understanding of Milton, his times, and his works.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to

  • explain the social and historical context of John Milton’s work;
  • define some of the most important ideas related to Milton’s life and times, including (but not limited to) Calvinism, Puritanism, Protestantism, Neo-Classicism, and Predestination;
  • provide accounts of the life of Charles I, the significance of the British Commonwealth, and the Restoration of the Monarchy;
  • explain Milton’s major philosophies, his politics, and his religious beliefs;
  • describe Milton’s chosen literary forms and rhetoric;
  • provide a brief account of Milton’s life, his relationship to Cavalier Poetry, his early elegies and eulogies, and his pastoral elegies, sonnets, and odes;
  • list and describe the major plot developments that occur in Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes;
  • analyze and describe both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained in terms of their respective treatments of Biblical versions of Heaven and Hell, the Creation, Predestination, gender relations, representations of human nature, and the Fall of humankind; and
  • discuss the formal aspects and structure of both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained and analyze and describe both of these works in terms of their epic styles and conventions.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:
√    have access to a computer; 

√    have continuous broadband Internet access; 

√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash); 

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer; 

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.); 

√    be competent in the English language; and

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to ENGL402: The Poetry of John Milton. General information on the course and its requirements can be found below.
Course Designer: Jennifer Shoop
Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials. Pay special attention to Unit 1, as this unit will lay the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material presented in the later units. You will also need to complete

  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to prepare adequately for this exam, you will need to work through the materials in each unit.
In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score will be tabulated upon the exam’s completion. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again following a 14-day waiting period.
Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of approximately 73.25 hours to complete. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These advisories should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take 6.5 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 3hours) on Monday night; subunits 1.3 and 1.4 (a total of 6.5 hours) on Tuesday night; etc.