Milton's Paradise Lost

Teacher: Mr. Deery
Extra Help: Mondays from 3:00-4:00 or by appointment.

Course Overview

In Book I, Milton clarifies the purpose of his poem: to “justify the ways of God to men” (I.26).  In this course, I will attempt a similarly heroic purpose: to justify the ways of Milton to adolescents.  To do this, we will look deeply into one of the most significant works of literature ever composed--John Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Milton’s retelling of the battle between God and Satan, and the subsequent fall of Adam and Eve, has, since its publication in 1667, profoundly impacted the world of literature and seeped into our collective understanding of humanity’s fall from grace.  

As should be evident by the title, this course will focus entirely on Milton’s poem.  While additional readings will occur, they will be used primarily to elucidate the poem’s meaning and enhance our ability to approach a coherent and complex understanding of Paradise Lost. The majority of the work in this course will be mental, and often occur in the form of class discussions.  However, you may also look forward to numerous short analytical assignments, as well as a final exam, modeled on the kind of exam you will commonly find in a college literature course.

Essential Questions

  • Why is Paradise Lost generally considered one of most important works of literature?  Should it be?

  • Why are critics so divided in their opinions of Milton’s?

  • Why is Milton’s portrayal of different characters (Satan and God, specifically) so controversial?  Is this controversy reasonable?

  • How relevant is a 400-year old poem, about a 2,000-year old story, in the modern world?

  • How successfully does Milton “justify the ways of God to men”? (I.26)

Useful Links

    General Help


    Audio Recording

    Online Texts

Full-text of Paradise Lost with hyperlinks (Dartmouth College’s "John Milton Reading Room")

    Visual Aids and Images

Iconography of Paradise Lost

    Study Guides; Helpful Background and Context

PL Course Outline