Gendered Reflections On an All-Day Reading of Paradise Lost

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Book Chapter

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In spring 2019, Jameela Lares hosted an all-day reading of Paradise Lost at the University of Southern Mississippi. While Paradise Lost is today primarily read by academics, the event expanded that reading to the wider community. Afterwards, Kayla Schreiber circulated to audience members a digital questionnaire regarding the interplay of agency and gender dynamics, reactions to hearing the poem read aloud in a mixed-gender setting, and the use of digital technology. Questions about gender included such topics as Satan’s possible rape of Sin; her rape by Death; Eve’s creation as recounted by Eve versus Adam; and the degree of sympathy elicited by Satan, Sin, Adam, and Eve. Responses to this questionnaire produced insights into Milton’s use of agency and gender dynamics, new ideas for using digital media for future readings, and distinct understandings of the context from which these issues arose, especially because participants were later sent a summary of the various responses. Lares and Schreiber concluded that technology allowed those of diverse backgrounds, interests, and generations more access to Milton’s writings, and that in many cases, using technology may be the only way to make such a reading experience possible, which afterward became more obvious amid the 2020 pandemic and accompanying social distancing and distance learning protocols.

Publication Title

Women (Re)Writing Milton

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