Marathon Reading of "Paradise Lost" Highlights Milton’s Masterpiece

Author: Chris Milazzo

To experience the full power of the 17th-century English masterpiece Paradise Lost, Notre Dame students and faculty will read John Milton’s 10,000-line poem aloud in one sitting on Friday, April 1, from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 8 p.m. 
in 221 O’Shaughnessy Hall.

Over the course of 10 hours, readers will move from heaven to hell to the Garden of Eden, taking on the parts of God, Satan, Adam and Eve, and a host of angels.

“Great poetry is meant to be read aloud and to be heard, and Paradise Lost is arguably the greatest poem in English—a work of extraordinary brilliance and power,” says Stephen Fallon, a Program of Liberal Studies and Department of English professor who was recently named the Milton Society of America’s 2011 Honored Scholar. “If you don’t speak and hear the lines, you miss much of the beauty.

“Taking in the whole poem at one sitting is also the best way to appreciate Milton’s architectural mastery and his subtle control of theme, image, and sound across thousands of lines of poetry,” says Fallon, the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Professor of the Humanities.

Participants will take turns reading aloud verse paragraphs of the poem in an informal reading circle. Students and faculty who choose to participate are encouraged to stay for the whole marathon, but others are welcome to come and go as their schedules allow.

The first all-day reading of Paradise Lost at Notre Dame in nearly 15 years will help illuminate Milton’s poetic genius, Fallon says.

“The experience of reading and hearing the whole poem aloud reveals the riches of Milton’s epic line by line and between the lines,” Fallon says. “Subtle echoes, parallels, and contrasts become more audible when lifted from the page. The aural experience highlights the kinetic energy of the verse.

“It all is exhausting—and exhilarating,” he adds. “No one leaves the reading unchanged.”

Learn More >