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Introduction to Paradise Lost
- by Ian Johnston -


Introduction

In starting any discussion of Paradise Lost, we must first acknowledge that this is a massive and highly contested work. It is, for modern students, very difficult to read, and it does not take much experience of critical responses to this poem to discover that it has generated continuing fierce disputes about almost all aspects of the poem. One of the main reasons for studying it here is that even a cursory exploration of some of the interpretative problems and proposed answers is, as in the case of Hamlet, enormously rewarding to anyone wishing to develop literary critical skills.

I should begin, too, by saying that much of my understanding of this strange work has been decisively shaped by one of the greatest works of literary criticism ever written in English, William Empson's Milton's God. While I will certainly be discussing other views of the poem, I shall be returning repeated to certain questions Empson raises and exploring in some detail a few of his responses to these questions. I am doing this in order to encourage students who are going on to further work in English literature to acquaint themselves with this superb work of literary criticism. I hope also to indicate some of the reasons why I find Empson's account so persuasive.


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"Lecture on Milton's Paradise Lost"

Author: Ian Johnston

Site: johnstonia

Introduction

Paradise Lost As an Epic Poem

Milton as a Protestant

The Critical Debate over Paradise Lost: Some General Comments

Some Initial Interpretative Considerations: Will and Imagination

Some Narrative Considerations

Justification of God's Ways: Part I

A Digression: The Problem of "Philosophical" Poetry

Justification of God's Ways: Part 2

The Opening Drama

Satan

God

Adam and Eve

Some Final Observations

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