The Making of Paradise Lost (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a late-spring 2011 seminar led by Thomas N. Corns.

This seminar derived from the intersection of several methodologies—the history of the book, analytical bibliography, and historically informed literary criticism—and explores, as if biographically, the antecedents, conception, gestation, production, and the early life of Paradise Lost. It attempted to model early readers’ expectations of a retelling of a biblical story through a consideration of the works of du Bartas and Francis Quarles. It examined the process of composition as documented in the early lives of Milton and in the manuscript to Book One. It considered the conditions for the production and circulation of printed books in the immediate aftermath of the Great Fire of London; it explored the work of the Simmons printing house and the firm’s relationship with Milton; and it charted the businesses of the booksellers associated with each of the issues of the first edition, before considering the changes, in content, in format, in appearance and in distribution, between that and the second edition of 1674. It examined the marginal comments of early readers. The seminar concluded with a review of the later seventeenth-century editions as the work acquires its first illustrations and its earliest annotation.

Director: Thomas N. Corns is Professor of English at Bangor University, Wales. His recent publications include John Milton and the Manuscript of De Doctrina Christiana (2007) and John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought (2008, with Gordon Campbell). He is co-editing Paradise Lost with David Loewenstein for The Complete Works of John Milton, of which (with Gordon Campbell) he is general editor.