ENGL 354C (6 cr): Milton and the Seventeenth Century: Milton


Mode of Delivery

This is a print-based, correspondence course.

Course Outline

  • Five assignments
  • Final examination

Course Description and Prerequisites

The work of Milton with special emphasis on Paradise Lost. Prerequisites are six credits of first-year English, or Arts One, or Foundations, and third-year standing.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of the course, you should have acquired a general knowledge of Milton’s period, and some detailed familiarity with a number of his works.

Course Overview

Study of Milton’s work will follow chronologically the three main periods of his creative—and also public—career:

I. 1608-1641, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”  (1629), “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso” (probably about 1631), “A Mask” (commonly known as Comus, 1634), and other early poetry;
II. 1642-1660, the controversial prose, including theological and ecclesiastical, social, and political treatises;
III. 1661-1674, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes.

As you can see, Milton’s life and work extends over much of the seventeenth century. He brought his remarkable genius not only to the remaking of many literary forms such as the ode, the elegy, the sonnet, the epic, and the drama, but he also contributed significantly to the intellectual and political life of his time through his personal involvement in the English Civil War and the subsequent revolutionary governments.

Lessons 1 and 2 feature Milton’s early poetry: the ode on Christ’s Nativity, Comus, and Lycidas. Lessons 3 and 4 provide a sample of his prose, revealing their author’s often vigorous reflections on the issues of his day. Lessons 5 through 10 study Paradise Lost two books at a time (that is, the twelve books of the epic are arranged into six lessons). Lessons 11 and 12 take up, respectively, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes (published together in 1671).


The five essay assignments for the course occur at obvious divisions in the subject matter:

  • #1, after Lesson 2 (on the early poetry, and the first part of Milton’s career)
  • #2, after Lesson 4 (on the prose, and the second or middle part of his career)
  • #3, after Lesson 7 (on the first half of Paradise Lost, the work of Milton’s maturity)
  • #4, after Lesson 10 (the second half, and thus the entire text, of Paradise Lost)
  • #5, after Lesson 12 (on Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes)

The papers are all intended to be critical rather than research in nature, and so they depend on your careful reading and understanding of the texts.

The five essays should each be about 2,000 words in length. A choice of topics is always given.


Essays (5 @15 each) 75%
Final Exam 25%
Total 100%

Course Materials – Textbook ENGL354C Textbook Order Form

Hughes, Merritt Y., ed. John Milton, Complete Poems and Major Prose. New York: Odyssey, 1957, 1984.

ENGL 354C Learner Package (includes course manual)

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