Angelica Duran ~ Purdue University
Premeditated Verse: Oral Readings of Paradise Lost

Unique among other major post-classical works, Paradise Lost is an oral poem. Because of his blindness, Milton was required to recite portions of his 10,565-line long masterwork to amanuenses. Since then, other oral readings of the epic have taken on many forms, all echoing the originary telling: the Romantics in small groups, teachers and religious folk in groups ranging from a dozen to over a hundred, performers who have memorized the entire book to impressed public audiences. I take the occasion of having just completed our own 10-hour "Marathon Reading" to reflect on the causes and consequences of such readings. Primarily, I share the insights from colleagues who regularly coordinate such readings in Canada, the U.K., the U.S.A., and other predominantly Anglo countries to demonstrate how the form of the readings (big or small, consecutive or broken up, public or private, etc.) shape results for individual readers, as well as reflect the coordinators' creativity and resources. Some basic pedagogical rationales include ensuring that students read the entire text and fostering group cohesion among students assigned to enliven individual books. Both within and outside of academic settings, the overarching impetus is promoting appreciation of literature and by extension the humanities: readings stimulate curiosity about this "hard" poem, impress the public with students' memorization skills, and even provide occasion for listeners to experience a theodicy. I conclude with my own reflections, back to my earliest reading when I used Paradise Lost as one of the base texts to improve my English pronunciation, of all things; to the echoes I heard but had never read; to whatever new insights this latest reading provides me and, I hope, others.


Closing Remarks: Jennifer Summit ~ Stanford University