Milton, Garlic, and Other Thoughts

Yesterday I finished the last assignment for my Late Renaissance British Literature course. Apart from my final exam, I’m done! It’s certainly been a worthwhile course to take.

Here are some points that this period of literary history can highlight:

1. If you want to communicate effectively, pay attention to how you say things as well as what you say. Content is crucial, but don’t forget form. (And yes, alliteration can add emphasis.)

2. Clear thinking and beautiful expression do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they make breath-taking partners in the dance of literature.

3. An excellent poem may unite striking imagery, effective rhythm and rhyme, and rich content—and make it look effortless. But it’s not. (Unless you are very talented, perhaps. But how would I know?) Try writing a poem that doesn’t sacrifice the form to the content or the content to the form and then tell me how you did. I’ll try not to rub it in.

4. Basic human needs, desires, and struggles don’t change all that much in four hundred years.

5. My vocabulary is diminutive.

6. If you don’t understand it first time around, try reading it again.

7. Milton is rather too enthusiastic about throwing classical allusions around—like a chef that overdoses on garlic. But if you can get past that pungent smell, he serves up some gourmet dishes.

8. Shakespeare is deservedly famous, but there’s more to Renaissance British Literature than Shakespeare. We have such a rich literary heritage, but I think that most of us miss out on most of it.

9. On the other hand, you don’t have to stamp “good” on a piece of literature just because it’s old.

10. Having to read things can be an enriching experience. I don’t know if I’d ever have read through Paradise Lost on my own initiative, but I’m glad that I had to.

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