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,


As Philadelphia's Jesuit, Catholic University, founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University provides a rigorous, student-centered education rooted in the liberal arts. SJU ranks as a top university in the Northeast, with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the College of Arts and Sciences and AACSB accreditation of the  Erivan K. Haub School of Business. The University is also deeply committed to the Jesuit tradition of scholarship and service, earning a place on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. With courses offered on campus and online, SJU prepares its more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students to lead lives of personal excellence, professional success and engaged citizenship.


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