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Topic: Paradise Lost question and classics in general..

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Subject: Paradise Lost question and classics in general..
Date Posted: 5/25/2008 11:10 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I have to admit that I've really  never read the 'classics' or a lot of thought provoking books since 1) I usually read to relax and 2) I hate feeling stupid when I get bogged down in the language and don't understand what's going on in  the book or the significance. I made it through school and college wihout reading 'the grapes of rath', 'war and peace' or any of those types of books. I did like Shakespeare in high school but had a teacher translating it for us - I think Macbeth was probably one of my favories for the drama alone and trying to wash the blood off their hands..still remember that scene and teh 'out out brief candle' speech though I had no idea I was walking around quoting a suicide speech...

anyways, I was reading a paranormal (which is a new genre to me and I managed to lose interest!) but the book 'paradise lost' was mentioned so I looked it up. I'm wondering how 'deep ' this poem is (and by poem I'm assuming this is a rather long poem since it has it's own cliff notes) and also wondering if I could understand this, how 'upsetting' this would be to a Christian (though I'm questioning and a bit more openminded that I have been in the past), and if I should get cliff notes along with it?! oh, and 'is it worth reading'? I'm wanting to make my way through some classics and I know there's a thread on here from mabye a few years ago if I can find it about recommended classics that I intend to look up. Also, while looking up 'paradise lost' another book by calvin miller came up 'requiem for love' and the description or one of the reviews compared it to tolkien's ring trilogy(which I haevn't read either but have in my TBR pile) and paradise lost...so is paradise lost similar to the ring trilogy since they were both mentioned?

sorry for the long post but I"m curious..I'll probably always read my romance and mysteries but sometimes I crave somethng that might make me think a bit and understand something 'bigger' or pieces of history. I'm also wanting to learn more history but I prefer reading it from people's points of view-like how people thought, etc. I relate to tht more than just fact after fact..Il ove it when I can read something that I'd previously seen only the 'white' but could at least understand the 'black' by the time I was done whether or not I agreed with it...that's just so neat to me!

Date Posted: 5/25/2008 11:28 AM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2006
Posts: 295
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I took a grad school class on "Paradise Lost" and didn't care for it. Not only did I feel that the language a hindrance to the message, but I thought Milton took too long a time "developing" the characters. My personal understanding from the poem was that Satan was made out to be a hero - at least a different perspective than I'd grown up with as the daughter of a preacher. It didn't offend me even then. (Now I'm an atheist).

Personally, I'd skip the poem (it's very, very long) and go straight to the Cliff's Notes. If you're looking for poems with deep meaning I'd investigate Shelley or Ted Hughes. if you're looking for literary fiction with a higher meaning, I'd start with Steinbeck. He's incrediby palatable and his work carries many devices adored by high school teachers - symbolism, foreshadowing, etc. Cannery Row remains one of my favorite books of all time.

I made it through college with an English degree without ever having taken Shakespeare, so I hear what you're saying. Supplementing one's education is commendable. Good luck.

Date Posted: 5/25/2008 1:39 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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Have you ever heard, or said: justify the ways of God to men. Or: The mind is its own place, and in itself
can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven
. Or: Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven (Star Trek, anyone?). Or: Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light. Have you ever referred to the hell within him, or called something paradise on earth?

All of those lines are Milton's, from Paradise Lost.

I understand that schools are no longer teaching, for the most part, things that are borrrrring. Dead White Male Authors. I understand that. I completely understand reading to relax, believe me. But someday, maybe not today, maybe not this year, but someday, challenge yourself to read Paradise Lost, with the Cliff's Notes if you have to, for the sheer beauty of it, for the history of it, for its place in the English language, for the way it has formed the basis for much of the way modern Christians see Satan and the struggle between good and evil.

Take it a phrase at a time, read it aloud, the way your teacher did with Macbeth, and put it into your own words. Then read Milton's words again. Your understanding of our culture will increase, as well as your appreciation for a well-turned phrase or a vivid image.

Date Posted: 5/25/2008 2:10 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2007
Posts: 4,987
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Lester:  I must tell you that though I am fairly new to PBS, I have read enough of your comments here in the forums over these last few months that I now actually perk up when I see you have posted in a thread.  You are always so insightful and well-spoken.  I read your words eagerly.  Your suggestion above is absolutely eloquent and makes me want to take the plunge and attempt to read Paradise Lost, and this isn't even my thread!!   You are a magnificent person, if I may just say so.  I appreciate very much your wisdom and kindness.  Thank you, it just felt good to gush...

Date Posted: 5/25/2008 4:11 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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Well, Stephanie, bless your little heart, and thank you. My blushes, as Sherlock said. I think we all have so much to learn from one another - I have learned so much from the people on PBS. It's a fine community we have here, diverse and lively, rightfully proud of our opinions, eager to share, and I'm proud to be a part of it, proud to know you.

Now I'm going to go get my wife and show her this. Maybe I can get a hug out of it, after she laughs like a loon. <grin>

Date Posted: 5/25/2008 7:04 PM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
Posts: 770
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Uggghhh!  I hate hate hated Paradise Lost--That and Dante's Divine Inferno.

I read Paradise Lost in AP English in HS...Good luck to you if you choose to read it.  I didn't make it through without Cliff's Notes!

Karen



Last Edited on: 5/25/08 7:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/25/2008 11:34 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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thanks everyone1 Lester I've heard of some of those quotes..I remember the 'reign in hell than serve in heaven' but can't remember where I heard/read it.

I'd really like to find a nice group that reads/discusses diferent types of literature..I know i can usually find someone here but in person 'live' would be nice too from time to time. I just get so bogged down..makes me miss the boring teachers who could actually put it in a context I could undertand...

Date Posted: 5/26/2008 10:58 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 422
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If you do decide to try some Shakespeare, I recommend getting the "Shakespeare Made Easy" version. It has the original language on the left side and modern translation on the right. This made it much more enjoyable for my students and they could appreciate the poetry of the language much better.

Date Posted: 5/26/2008 11:34 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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wow they finally came up with a 'made easy' version? are these available for other books as well? I know they did that for the Bible so it makes sense they'd apply the same for other books...thanks!

Date Posted: 5/26/2008 11:47 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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I know that Classics Illustrated did The Aeneid and some of the more dense novels like Robinson Crusoe. Wouldn't it be nice if someone had done Milton? I'd be interested to see it, if so.

Edited because I'm an idiot. Where's my coffee?



Last Edited on: 5/26/08 11:48 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/26/2008 11:59 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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Thanks Nina! I found several of the shakespeare made easy books at my library! I just requeste dthe Macbeth one since I remember liking that one pretty well (so glad my library has an online catalog!) there are also a few diffrent ones available here but thought i'd try the 'free' route first and see how it goes! They also have Hamlet and Twelfth Night? hadn't heard of that one..I think I might have read Hamlet - is he the one who was jealous 'cause he had the hots for his mom? I remember thinking one of them had a whiney boy in it! oh well.

I looked at your bookshelf briefly and see you have a Chaim Potok book (the title escapes me now!) but how was it? I loved his Asher Lev books and have read another 'Davida's Harp' that was good but just didnt' grab me the way the Asher Lev stories did.

Subject: Suggestion...
Date Posted: 5/26/2008 2:02 PM ET
Member Since: 5/21/2008
Posts: 107
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If you like romance novels, but are interested in reading some classical literature, definitely check out books by Jane Austen. They all have a romance theme, and they are not as hard to read as some classical literature!

Date Posted: 5/26/2008 6:35 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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thanks Nicki...I've never read Austen but seems like someone mentioned her on the romance forum a while back. I'll have to try some!

Date Posted: 5/26/2008 7:00 PM ET
Member Since: 12/26/2005
Posts: 12,167
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I think Jane Austen is particularly readable, too.  I read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in high school and loved them even then. 

I've set a personal goal for this year to read one new to me classic per month.  I'm a little behind at the moment, so I'm going to consider it okay if I average one per month.     :)

Date Posted: 5/26/2008 7:28 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 422
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Anything by Chaim Potek is great. "The Chosen" is what he is most famous for and it is wonderful. "I am the Clay" is not set in the Jewish community, but rather is set  during the Korean War. It too is well written.

I just taught "Fahrenheit 451" this year and recommend it if you want Scit Fi. It is about a dystopian society and Bradbury is quite a good writer.

I try to give my students a taste for different genres of literature. Some westerns that are particularly good are "Shane", and " The Virginian". I just finished "Death Comes For the Archbishop" by Willa Cather and it is good

Any particular genre that you are interested in?

Date Posted: 5/26/2008 8:41 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
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no particular genre I dont' guess..it's funny but I've always considered classics to be old and their 'own' genre! I want to read Fahrenheit 451 again..I remember liking it overall but sorta skimmed through to finish in time for the test! That particular teacher wasn't good at teaching either..the one I had my jr year was awesome and one in college was pretty good but I only  had 2 semesters since I was a chemistry major and it wasn't required. I usually like romance and mystery.  The Asher Lev book I had to read in college and later re-read it and found the sequel. I haven't read The Chosen yet. I think the art in the Asher Lev stories and the struggle and symbolism are what made the book for me. Davida's heart I liked but it was nowhere near how Asher Lev effected me.

I haven't read a lot of 'serious' books but I remember enjoying 'Paul's Case' a short story I think by Willa Cather. I liked that one enough to hunt and hunt for a book of short stories that had that one in it though I haven't read it in years. I also liked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Red Tent (more recent), Fahrenheit 451, and a favorite: The Glass Menagerie. I loved that one and we watched the movie with Katherine Hepburn. oh, also liked The Great Gatsby though hated the ending. I also for some reason enjoyed a teen book: the coffin quilt by ann rinaldi. taming of the shrew I liked. hmm...can probably think of some more.

Some forced reads I absolutely hated and resent being forced to read (at least hated them at the time because they scared me or really bothered me): Lord of the Flies, and 1984.Romeo and Juliet wasn't a favorite either but  just didn't 'get it' or like it but those other 2 I hated and wish I'd never had to read them. I just skimmed through enough to test and that was it. Beowulf was another one and that one I just didn't get..we had to memorize a passage about the nature of nobility that I did but it was the same sr english teacher and not much was explained. ETA: 2 more forced reads from jr high and maybe 5th grade that still bother me when It hink about them: where the red fern grows and sounder...



Last Edited on: 5/26/08 8:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/27/2008 12:35 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2007
Posts: 1,577
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I've read quite a few classics, and with a lot of them, I struggle with the language quite a bit.  I remember trying to read Emma several times and putting it down because I was having so much trouble wading through the language...if I have to keep stopping and thinking too often, I'm likely to put the book down.  Then I watched  the movie (the version with Kate Beckinsale in it)...loved it and went back to the book.  Because I already knew the basic story, I was able to get through it much better, and the parts that were cut from movie version weren't that difficult to figure out.  I guess because I didn't have to really think about all of it, just parts.  Anyway, that might be an option...start with ones that have had a movie made out of them...then combine the book and the movie together.  (As long as you find a movie that follows the story fairly well.) 

I haven't thought of getting cliff notes and using them to help figure out a story...for some reason that always felt like cheating to me.  Which is stupid...I'll "cheat" with a movie but wouldn't with a book.  I'll have to give it a try. 

Edit:  I like to read a lot of books, so if its too much work for me to get through it, I'm more likely to not finish it....I'll just pick something else up.



Last Edited on: 5/27/08 12:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/29/2008 2:51 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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Well I went by the library yesterday and stocked up! too bad I dont' have all day to read :-(. I even hit the jackpot at FOL shelves at the 2nd branch I went to because they had a bunch of cliffnotes 2 for a quarter! I grabbed the ones that I had any interest in whatsoever (I had no idea they had cliffnotes for the old and new testament!)

But I checked out Macbeth from the shakespeare made easy (thanks so much for telling me about these!) along with the cliffnotes just in case; the chosen by chaim Potok along with the cliffnotes which I started reading and the notes are interesting to give the background of w hat was going on in the jewish faith), and found Paradise Lost and the cliffnotes for it! thatons' one long poem by the way!! it says paradise lost and paradise found..guess they go together? didn't read standng in the library but looks like it has the whole thing in it.

you know, I learned something at the library yesterday! I'm so happy...I was thinking Shakespeare being fiction ought to be with the fiction but I remmbered from high school that it's in the 'numbers'..well while browsing that section I saw contemporary romance mixed in and asked the librarian and she said she knew it was weird and that they hardly get c hecked out because people don't know they're there but since they're anthologies by more than one author that's where they go! I swear I had no idea these were over there...I guess anthologies by the ame author go thre too? and all mixed in..anyways I found this interesting!

Date Posted: 6/27/2008 8:26 AM ET
Member Since: 4/21/2008
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I love the Shakespeare Made Easy. I was surprised when I posted a few on PBS and they got snapped up quickly :)

 

I have horrid memories of reading the Merchant of Venice in high school. The teacher assigned us each parts and we had to read the thing out loud in class. Some of my classmates had a hard time reading anything much less reading Shakespeare out louc, so every day was torture for all of us. The teacher never bothered to explain what the words were about or try to put them in modern day English. We spent days stumbling over words we did not understand.

 

A few years ago I picked up one of the Shakespeare Made Easy books and loved it. After a couple of them I tried to read the "original" first and figure it out on my own. I was proud of myself when I could figure it out. 

The other thing that helped was Barnes & Noble online has free classes every month. They used to have some about Shakespeare. A teacher will post "lessons" and then some points to start the discussion. I learned a lot from that -- both the lessons and talking to the other students.

 

Subject: Paradise Lost etc
Date Posted: 7/1/2008 2:35 PM ET
Member Since: 6/18/2008
Posts: 13
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Lester,

First of all, I am very new to PBS, and my bookshelf doesn't give a really good interpretation of my reading variety.   I too, had seen a reference to PL in a book a while ago and added it into my 'Books to Read' list after a Google or two.    I figured that, if I took the time and didn't rush the reading, I would enjoy PL.    Because I do so love the 'Dead' and/or 'Classic' authors.   You have affirmed my figuring.    Thank you.   Are there any recommendations you could make for me?   I have read and liked Austen, Eliot, Dickens, Dumas and Williams, along with all the  reading that a tiny country high-school required.    I have yet to tackle Tolstoy and the like.

Subject: Kaycee1976 - completely off the subject, but
Date Posted: 7/1/2008 2:39 PM ET
Member Since: 6/18/2008
Posts: 13
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books from pet homes have never been a problem for me.   Here is why, and you might just find it amusing!    I am a cross-stitcher and we refer to pet hair as 'specialty threads'.     My aunt occasionally sends me books that have been lovingly dusted by her Poms, Bessie and Ginger.    Giggle!!!

Date Posted: 7/2/2008 9:45 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,709
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I love this thread!  I've never read "Paradise Lost" but I've recently read a lot about it, what with the controversy over Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.  I'd like to re-read Pullman, and then jump into Milton.

When I was a senior in high school, they offered a class on Shakespeare, but I was the only student to sign up for it!  So they let me take an independent study, and I did nothing but read Shakespeare and write papers all year.  I loved it!  If you read enough, you start to dream in Elizabethan English! (Swear to God)  But I have to say that, if you want to jump into Shakespeare another way (besides Shakespeare Made Easy) try watching the movies done by Kenneth Branagh.  He is brilliant!!    My favorite is "Henry V", but he also did "Hamlet", "Much Ado About Nothing" and I think "Othello."  Also, the version of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo di Caprio was good...Shakespeare's language in a modern setting.  It makes it easier to understand and relate to, IMHO.

 

Lester...I love your posts!  Your wife better give you a hug!  :D

Date Posted: 7/2/2008 9:45 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,709
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I love this thread!  I've never read "Paradise Lost" but I've recently read a lot about it, what with the controversy over Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.  I'd like to re-read Pullman, and then jump into Milton.

When I was a senior in high school, they offered a class on Shakespeare, but I was the only student to sign up for it!  So they let me take an independent study, and I did nothing but read Shakespeare and write papers all year.  I loved it!  If you read enough, you start to dream in Elizabethan English! (Swear to God)  But I have to say that, if you want to jump into Shakespeare another way (besides Shakespeare Made Easy) try watching the movies done by Kenneth Branagh.  He is brilliant!!    My favorite is "Henry V", but he also did "Hamlet", "Much Ado About Nothing" and I think "Othello."  Also, the version of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo di Caprio was good...Shakespeare's language in a modern setting.  It makes it easier to understand and relate to, IMHO.

 

Lester...I love your posts!  Your wife better give you a hug!  :D

Date Posted: 7/2/2008 9:46 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,709
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Hey..how did that happen?  Sorry for the double post. 

Vicky<-----who will be very embarrassed if this turns into another double post!

 

Date Posted: 7/3/2008 10:33 PM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
Posts: 576
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if you want to get into reading classics but you aren't used to reading them I would try out what I like to call "in betweens". They are authors like Daphne DuMaurier where I find that the language is about in the middle of modern language and more classical language.

I would def recommend DuMaurier's "Rebecca" or Dodie Smith's "I Capture The Castle".

a really good classic to start with is Dumas' "the black tulip".  it has romance, drama, excitement, etc. and beautifully written.

others are "turn of the screw" and "washington square". they are short and fun to read to get you started.

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