Milton & Radical England - ENG00091H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Brian Cummings
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) has remained at the centre of English literary traditions since its appearance, with an eighteenth and nineteenth century reputation that rivalled Shakespeare. Milton was, however, consummately, a writer of his time, capable by turns of rudeness, high-mindedness, impressive vitriol and at times reckless political intransigence. He was simultaneously a product of rigorous scholarly humanism, a dissenting and unbending Puritanism, and the political radicalism out of which both leveller and republican thought emerged. Milton was capable of uncompromising stances, noisily defending the execution of the king against those former parliamentary and Presbyterian allies who, if nothing else, were shocked at its gravity, and a decade later vigorously opposing the return of the monarchy, even when the republican cause was essentially lost. He was one of a very small and notorious band of supporters of the regicide who were not included in the general amnesty at the return of Charles II, and, forced out of any public role by both his reputation and blindness, he produced some of the most enigmatic, challenging and brilliant poems in English, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes.

This course will look at all of the major poetry of Milton, considering their use of genre, gender, theology and politics, along with a range of the shorter poems and extracts from the prose, ranging across subjects as various as the freedom of the press, a justification of the regicide and a set of controversial divorce tracts. It will set Milton in the context of the theological and political upheavals of the civil war and restoration, and read his works in relation to some of his radical contemporaries, such as the leveller Putney Debates, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and Lucy Hutchinson’s biblical epic, Order and Disorder.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

The aims of this module are to gain a substantial knowledge of a selection of writings by Milton and his contemporaries, with particular focus on the radical milieu in which his ideas were created and disseminated.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the major genres within which Milton and his contemporaries wrote.
  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the main literary, cultural and socio-historical contexts in which they wrote
  3. Evaluate key debates dealing with the political significance of Milton within seventeenth century culture.
  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in the term in which the module is taught (usually in the week 7 seminar). Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work.

This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 9 seminar). Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours  
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

The Primary reading of the course will be Milton’s poetry and a selection of prose. We will look at Paradise Lost, in detail as well as Samson Agonistes, Paradise Regained and a range of the shorter poems. We will read his works in relation to some of his radical contemporaries, studied in extract where possible, such as the leveller Putney Debates, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and Lucy Hutchinson’s biblical epic, Order and Disorder. We have consulted and will to continue to consult with Lisa Foggo to ensure that sufficient texts are available.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.