6.06.2011

Musings on Milton


Tomorrow is my final on Milton's Paradise Lost. Before I start studying, I feel inclined to share what inspiration my professor left us with during our last class. UCLA has recently changed the requirements for the English major, no longer requiring students to take Milton. While most rejoice in the opportunity to take something else, I can't say I regret taking it now. My professor was actually moved to tears knowing this is probably the last lecture, of this size, that she will probably ever teach Milton to. She lives and breathes Paradise Lost, but not in a particularly scholastic way. And so she closed our class with the question, "Why Milton?"

1. Paradise Lost will exist until the world ends. You may assume Milton is elitist, but there is real virtue in the recognition that some poems are just better than others. Milton's poem are universal and they stem from a humanity everyone can recognize.

2. Paradise Lost demands to be read in its entirety. There aren't many classes that spend six weeks on one work, so we were lucky to spend this much time with a single mind. And not just any mind, but a mind that influenced so much more than it created.

3. Paradise Lost is the supreme test of literacy. If you can do it, you can do anything.

Maybe it's just me as an English major, but it's so inspiring to see someone feel so strongly for a work they subscribe to. It's true that we tend to read books so quickly without divulging into its entirely, avoiding its consequences and its unseen implications. You often forget about the person behind the work and their intention to the audience.

The final scene of Paradise Lost came alive once we discussed it. With Adam and Eve walking hand in hand from the garden of Eden, we see our first parents as our children. They seem so frail and tiny, pushed out into the unknown world. But Paradise Lost is also a love story. Adam and Eve may not be healed, but they have each other. Eden would never have been enough if there hadn't been companionship. It makes the solitary landscape ahead of them not so solitary.

Milton vouched for compatibility in relationships and his ending only solidified the promise he recognized in love. In spite of expulsion and exposure to death, there was love. And in a world full of danger, there is also promise.

Thanks Professor :)