Miltonathon: Remembering a Master


(from left to right) Sophomores Megan Leo, Matthew Leo and Jessica Blau partake in some Milton reading.

Sunday, March 6 marked Colgate’s second annual Miltonathon, where 17th-century poet John Milton’s work, Paradise Lost, was brought to life. This marathon event began at 11 a.m. and concluded nine hours later at 8 p.m. Both students and professors congregated in Lathrop Hall’s Fager Lounge for this celebration of literature.

Accompanying the voices of Adam, God, Satan and other familiar biblical characters, a plethora of cleverly named decedent desserts, appetizers and drinks filled all available counter space in the lounge. Students enjoyed deviled eggs, devil’s-food chocolate cupcakes, angel cake cupcakes, Garden of Eden pizza and “Hot-as-Hell Chili.” The extravagantly themed nature of the event matched with the reading of Paradise Lost, transported attendees into the heart of the poem.

“The event was captivating and the readers got lost in the story. Listeners were able to not only understand the story, but feel it,” first-year John Bennett said.

Many of the students that were in attendance are currently enrolled in classes dedicated to the study of Milton and other British writers. However, not all of the individuals were enrolled in a correlating class. Extra copies of the 10,000–line poem as well as pronunciation guides were readily available for those new to the poem.     

“I really enjoyed reading Paradise Lost in a room filled with people who were interested in literature. Their passion was contagious and I enjoyed the reading a lot more in this setting than I originally had in English class,” first-year Ezra Hornik said.

Marathon readings are common throughout the English speaking world, and they are not new to Colgate. Several years ago, an Iliathon was hosted for the reading of Homer’s Iliad, as well as an Odysseyathon. These epic poems, as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost, were primarily written to be read out loud. Only then can listeners and readers fully internalize the power of the language. The impact of truly listening to the unfolding syntax and diction, magnifies the meaning of the work itself, delving deeply into myriad layers existing within the poem.

“Reading aloud a long (unabridged) work that has not been translated from another language is a particular pleasure – one can hear all the sound-effects the poet has used to create the world of the poem, the kind of detail that cannot be captured in translation,” Professor of English Deborah Knuth Klenck said.

Miltonathon serves as a remembrance of Milton’s masterpiece, as well as a tribute to the late George C. Hudson. Hudson taught at Colgate for over forty years, sharing his passion for seventeenth-century literature with both faculty members and students.  

Paradise Lost highlights the genius of Milton. Although completely blind when he wrote this epic poem, he thoroughly showcased his linguistic talent and expansive knowledge. Milton, throughout his poem, coined new terms that are etymologically derived from Latin and Greek. Milton’s writing was inspired by the literary talents of his predecessors, specifically Homer, Virgil, Dante, Tasso and Spenser. Reading Milton allows for the reflection of centuries of literature. Miltonathon strengthens this connection to the past while continuing an oral tradition spanning hundreds of years.