English R1B

Reading and Composition: Romantic Satanism: "Paradise Lost" and Its Radical Legacies

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
10 Fall 2020 Sulpizio, Catherine
MWF 1-2

Book List

Blake, William: A Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Blake, William: Milton: A Poem in Two Books; Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; Melville, Herman: Moby Dick; Milton, John: Paradise Lost; Vivien, Renée: La Genèse profane;

Recommended: Baudelaire, Charles: Les Litanies de Satan; Hugo, Victor: La Fin de Satan; Shelley, Percy: Prometheus Unbound; X, Malcolm: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Other Readings and Media

Secondaries may include excerpts from Per Faxneld, Stanley Fish, Carolivia Herron, Jared Hickman, Christopher Hill, Islam Issa, and Reginald A. Wilburn (among others). 


What does it mean to be a romantic reader of Paradise Lost? In this course, we will closely read the canonical epic poem by John Milton, before exploring its reception in a few key Romantic texts. By reading Milton alongside William Blake and Olaudah Equiano, Percy Shelley, Herman Melville, and Renée Vivien we will consider these Romantic/post-Romantic figures as readers and rewriters of Paradise Lost. In the first half of the class, we will treat the source text as a critical site where themes of absolutism, liberation, theodicy, and free will converge, while unpacking its English Revolutionary context. Yet, if as Blake suggested, Milton was “of the Devil’s party without knowing it,” in the second half of the class, we will ask how later writers seek to simultaneously claim and contest the legacy of Milton’s hierarchical Christian vision, often by recapturing its Satanic energies. By transforming Satan into a revolutionary or political rebel or decadent, these writers demonstrate how a 17th-century text can be reactivated for abolitionist, republican, and feminist purposes that far exceed Milton’s context. Towards this end, we will work towards a literary reception theory that is organized along "lines of adaptation," rather than static inheritance—allowing us to understand the author as a literary critic who renegotiates tradition.

The course will be comprised of reading the majority of Milton’s epic poem, with strategic excerpts from Blake, Equiano, Shelley, Melville, and Vivien, alongside relevant secondaries. As this course counts towards the Reading and Composition requirement, beyond developing an analytic framework for understanding Paradise Lost's literary and critical legacies, students should expect to learn the craft of research writing, primarily by composing (and revising) two research papers. 

Back to Semester List