April 4, 2013
This Sunday, April 7, is the fourth annual marathon reading of Paradise Lost. John Milton’s epic poem about the fall of mankind in Burke Library. The poem, divided into 12 books, tells a story full of jealousy, war, temptation and betrayal.
In recent years, marathon readings of the poem have become more common, taking place at various colleges and universities across the country, as well as schools abroad, such as Trinity College in Ireland.
Professor Margaret Thickstun started the tradition at Hamilton in 2009, which garnered some attention. In 2011, The New York Times covered the event.
Cooper Creagan ’13, remarked that although “journalists have seen [the marathon] as an effort to fight against today’s fast-paced, Twitter-like lifestyle,” that’s not why it appeals to him. To Creagan, “it’s just about getting together with friends and reading a good story.” He is one of many former students who have returned for the reading every year since taking the class.
Hashem Zikry ’13, echoes Creagans’s sentiment: “It’s a poem that’s meant to be read aloud, and hearing it that way made the entire class more enjoyable.”
Students in the class read aloud from the poem, but everyone is welcome to participate, either by reading or by listening.
Those who have read in the past include Hamilton College Choir Director Rob Kolb and President Joan Hinde Stewart, as well as other faculty and students not enrolled in the class.
The event begins at noon and ends at 10:30 p.m., with a break at 6:15 for dinner. Those interested in participating should stop by the library for what senior Anna Paikert calls “a literary Eden of sorts—students and faculty members com[ing] together simply to share in the pleasure of reading.”
Noon: Books 1 and 2—Satan discovers himself in Hell; the fallen angels debate what to do.
1:45: Books 3 and 4—Satan travels toward Earth; God and the Son consider how to respond; Adam and Eve have a lovely day.
3:15: Books 5 and 6—Satan has disturbed Eve’s sleep, so God sends Raphael to alert Adam and Eve to Satan’s presence and their responsibilities. He tells them about Satan’s rebellion.
5:00: Books 7 and 8—Raphael tells Adam and Eve about Creation; Adam and Raphael discuss Adam’s birth and his feelings for Eve.
6:15: Dinner break.
7:00: Book 9—Spoiler alert: Eve eats the fruit; Adam eats the fruit; then they wish they hadn’t.
8:00: Book 10—Satan returns to Hell to boast; Adam and Eve quarrel and then reconcile.
9:00: Books 11 and 12—Michael comes to kick Adam and Eve out of Eden, but tells Adam about the future, including the Incarnation and Resurrection.