Off topic: teaching Paradise Lost

Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 members aren’t just scholars of women’s and gender history during the early modern period and long eighteenth century, they’re also museum curators, music librarians, software managers… and teachers, especially at university level. As academics, research is only a portion of what they do, and like all other academics, almost all will spend time teaching texts, images, and materials that do not have much connection to their research specialism, which could be one singer, one artist, or a particular genre of plays, or a theme such as history of medicine.  But this is compounded when it comes to teaching gender. “Where are the women?” (as with, “where are any black and ethnic minority figures?”) is a perennial problem with university curricula, and that is one reason why women’s and gender history continues to thrive in the margins, in more flexible structures like the WSG.

But a knowledge of this history-from-below or from-the-margins, can inform some of the most canonical texts.  Take English for example, where no student will graduate without having read at least a part of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). Milton’s attitudes to divorce and freedom of the press are important contexts for his composition of the poem.  As part of her regular teaching load recently WSG member Sara Read, based at Loughborough University, was asked to make a video on Book IX of the poem where Eve infamously speaks with Satan in the form of a serpent, and is persuaded (… but she’s also exercising her own free will…) to taste the forbidden fruit.  Here’s the video, I hope you enjoy it.

Have any other readers based in universities made similar videos for use online and in social media? Meanwhile, which poets would you have in your seventeenth-century curriculum?  I’d at least have Margaret Cavendish and Lucy Hutchinson, no question.

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