• My First Miltonian Experience
My English 1102 class was devoted the reading and understanding of John Milton’s Paradise Lost reinforced by the analysis of other works of art that appropriated Milton’s epic. When I decided to enroll in this section during registration, I had done so without knowing much about Paradise Lost—I knew that it was about the fall of Satan and his deception of Adam and Eve, and that premise was interesting enough to hook me in. One thing that I didn’t know was that, as I was happily informed by my instructor, Milton’s poem was regarded as one of the most difficult and complex texts to read in the English language. For some perspective: I cannot define myself as an avid or powerful reader; Pride and Prejudice was dreadfully boring, Invisible Man took ages to complete, and I abhorred Hamlet—not to any fault of the works or their creators, I am just simply an inattentive reader! “Besides,” argued the part of my conscious that opposed literature, “you’re an engineer, a scientist! You don’t need to be concerned with historic romantic literature!” In retrospect, this negative attitude nicely parallels Raphael’s call to Adam to “be lowly wise,” and I am certainly glad that I remained in the class and was not scared away by the daunting task of reading the dense text. In fact, one of the major aspects of the poem that retained my interest was how Milton dealt with the subject of knowledge and reason with respect to humankind as well as with God, which is why the subject of knowledge was the main pillar upon which both my presentation and research essay were focused. I am confident that, thanks to my attachment to the epic and my performance in both presenting and writing research, over the course of the semester I had become not only a more effective reader, but a more perceptive literary scholar as well and because of this, I have a deeper respect and appreciation for the works that I come across.
Before I could commence with any of the “fun” activities—presenting adaptations, making books of art and quotes based on the poem, I actually had to read Paradise Lost first—that arduous task which I was initially so unenthused to start. The major reason that I find myself having difficulty in reading something is that I am easily distracted from the text, which would result from my lack of interest in the writing. While initially unsure of how successful this journey would be, I was pleasantly surprised by the rich universe that Milton envisioned as he interpreted the story of Genesis—the diverse personalities seen in the characters of Satan, his followers, and their foils of God and his heavenly legion served to cement my curiosity in this compelling tale. I must also give credit to the generous schedule that accompanied the reading: starting at just two books a week was more than reasonable and was essential to making me comfortable with Paradise Lost. A good habit that I exercised was to consistently record notes on the progress of the poem—whether the events were of major consequence or little. At the end of this course I find that my reading speed has increased and I can retain much more content that I previously could.
In the same way that it “takes a village to raise a man,” Professor Higinbotham knew that having a deep understanding of Paradise Lost would require more than just reading the text, which is why she had us read and research other artists that used Milton’s work to influence their own. For this reason, early in the semester we read from Julie Sander’s book Adaptation and Appropriation in order to become familiar with the many ways that a piece of art can be found in another.From modern novels like Good Omens to the historic Frankenstein, as well as visual media like the movie Blade Runner and even Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” song, through Dr. Higinbotham I had come to appreciate the epic even more by just scratching the surface of its influence on artistic culture. After seeing all of the works to choose from, and with my personal focus on the subject of knowledge in Paradise Lost I decided to join a team to work on Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. This portion of the course infused teamwork and cooperation into a subject (Literature) where, beforehand, I did not consider it very significant. This being the case, during our collaboration I saw that we were able to create a presentation with more content and with more value than any of us could have done alone, and is my second article for this portfoilo. It was especially helpful to have a team to work with because they provided perspectives on the poem that were much different than my own and because of that helped me learn even more about Paradise Lost and its adaptations. I would not identify presenting in front of my colleagues as one of my strengths, but using this project as practice I identified traits that I needed to improve to give more effective presentations, such as my speech volume, eye contact and talking speed—while I received positive feedback for the presentation, it was apparent that I was nervous and took slightly too long to speak, which I must admit comes from inexperience in public speaking.
While working on a team required some amount of research, the bulk of the researching done for this course was for the research paper that was worked on closer to the end of the course, and is represented as my third artifact in this portfoilo. While we will be examining the essay and the revision process later, it is important to mention that this was the first time that I had to do extensive research for literature. The concept was not totally remote, for as I began working I found that the process—formulating an argument, investigating primary and secondary sources—was not much different from writing a paper for history or the like. As I stated earlier, my main focus was on the subject of knowledge in Paradise Lost, specificallythe duality between seemingly “good” and “evil” knowledge, and the best sources for my argument were Milton’s critics such as Virginia Woolf, as well as Milton’s own writing in On Education and Areopagitica. Feedback on the paper showed that, while my content was sound, I need more practice in formatting in MLA.
During my second semester here at Georgia Tech I took six different courses, some dedicated to science, other to mathematics and engineering, and with a full plate of material to learn I initially thought that my time in English 1102 wouldn’t be much more than any other literature class—read, write, rinse, repeat. I am more than thankful that these notions were totally false; during this course I was exposed to some of the most complex and astute works of art in the English language, but never once felt bored or at the mercy of “busy work.” From making my own paper from pulp to analyzing art from all types of media, I was able to learn why a poem written almost four centuries ago still plays a crucial role in modern culture. During this journey I was able to improve on my written and oratory skills while learning how to research as a literary scholar, which initially may not seem to be valuable to a training engineer, but when realizing the amount of communication experience obtained from these projects, in conjunction with the WOVENText style of communication, it is easy to see that the skills I have used in English 1102 are paramount to my future success as a student and engineer.