The Fall from Eden, Out Loud

Marathon reading of Milton’s 'Paradise Lost' scheduled for April 11

Friday, April 5, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (April 5, 2013) — While most people agree that great literature deserves to be read, two English professors at Saint Joseph’s University say that great literature should also be read out loud. Jason Powell, D.Phil., and Paul Patterson, Ph.D., both assistant professors, have organized an ambitious aural undertaking to illustrate their assertion. For 12 hours on April 11, (9 a.m. - 9 p.m.), 54 students, faculty and administrators will read aloud the 12 books of John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, in the Falese Atrium of Merion Hall.

Written in blank verse and first published in 1667 after the poet was completely blind, the work tells the story of humankind’s banishment from the Garden of Eden. It has been referred to as one of the greatest literary achievements in the English language.

Though Paradise Lost is not a play, Milton envisioned it as a drama, according to Powell, who co-directs the University’s Medieval, Renaissance and Reformation Studies Program with Patterson. “Featuring rebel angels, archangels, Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ, and the ultimate anti-hero, Satan, the work offers a host of godly yet utterly human characters,” says Powell.

“Its performative element is especially engaging and vibrant when read out loud,” says Patterson. Participants will not do cold readings. Each volunteer was assigned a specific 20-minute section to read. Short breaks are scheduled throughout the day.

The two scholars conceived the marathon to involve students in active learning, transforming the experience of reading from a solitary pursuit to a communal event. The fact that students will accomplish this while considering “the beginnings of the universe and the origins of humanity, within an amazingly learned and interlocking set of political, religious and moral philosophies, is a testament to Milton’s genius,” says Powell.

In advance of the marathon, the Medieval, Renaissance and Reformation Studies Program and the Department of English are sponsoring a lecture by Shannon Miller, Ph.D., of Temple University, who will deliver “Prophetic Voices and Prodigious Births in Paradise Lost’s Sin and Death Scene,” in the President’s Lounge of Campion Student Center on Tuesday, April 9, at 3 p.m. Both the lecture and the marathon are free and open to the public.

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Senior Associate Director of University Communications, 610-660-3240,


Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide-array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni – over 60,000 strong - provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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