English | Spenser & Milton
L622 | 27022 | Charnes

4:00p – 5:15p TR


More than any other author in the English language, John Milton
deeply understood the importance of what he famously called
the “provoking object.”   Formulated in the context of Areopagitica,
his discourse against print censorship, the concept of the provoking
object and its profoundly constitutive power can be seen as central
to all aspects of political psychology, whether individual, social,
or national.

No contemporary critical theorist better understands the political
and psychological value of “provoking objects” than Slavoj Zizek,
whose groundbreaking book  The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989)
fuses postmarxist and Lacanian theories into a seamless framework
for exploring the deep (and often symptomatic) relationship between
individual and political structures of belief and desire.

Despite their different historical moments, Milton and Zizek share
an obsession with how  fantasmatic representations—of political
doctrine, of  sexual desire, of ethics and morality, of religious
belief—underwrite identities within political systems such as
monarchy,  commonwealth, democracy, and dictatorship.

In this course we will read Milton’s Paradise Lost through the lens
of  Zizek’s Sublime Object of Ideology, exploring how ideological
fantasies--political, religious, aesthetic and sexual--work together
with, or in opposition to, each other in Milton’s writing.    While
we will spend most of our time on Paradise Lost, we will read
Areopagitica, selections from Tenure of Kings and Magistrates,  and
from The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.  We will look at how
the views articulated in Milton’s earlier work are recast, renounced
or reaffirmed in his epic poem.   In addition to Zizek’s Sublime
Object we will read his recent book The Puppet and the Dwarf:  the
Perverse Core of Christianity.

Our intellectual concerns will simultaneously be historical,
political, psychoanalytic and aesthetic, and as we close read
Milton’s texts all four lenses will be equally applied.
Additional critical readings may include work by Stanley Fish,
Joseph Loewenstein, Sharon Achinstein, Catherine Belsey, John
Guillory, John Rogers and Christopher Kendrick.    Students will
write weekly informal response notes, and two ten-page position