“Miltonathon” Pays Tribute to Late Professor’s Work with Milton


Sunday March 1, beginning at noon, Colgate will be hosting a “Miltonathon”, a reading of John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. Professor of English Deborah Knuth Klenck is helping to spearhead this event.

“Paradise Lost” is an epic poem written in blank verse. It tells the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Klenck expects the reading to last about eight hours. Although at other schools, such as Princeton, the marathon begins at night, here it will begin in the afternoon to avoid having to stay up all night. 

“These happen all over the country, we’ve just never had one here,” Klenck said. “I think it’s a nice kind of mid-winter icebreaker thing, especially if we have really spicy chili from the pits of hell.”

Part of the motivation behind this event is a tribute to professor of English emeritus George Hudson, who passed away in November 2013. Klenck took over his Milton class, and now two of her classes will be partaking in the event.

“It’s going to read, out loud, all of ‘Paradise Lost’ and sometimes people will take parts if they want, so someone will play Adam and Eve,” Klenck said. “There’s a moment in book four where Adam and Eve say a prayer before bedtime, and they say it unanimously, so we rehearsed it in class and two students read it together, but even if people just pop in and read a couple of paragraphs without necessarily acting in character, that would be a nice thing.”

Klenck and her students have attended a Miltonathon at Hamilton College in the past, where students from all departments were able to partake in the event. Klenck hopes to get a variety of students to show up here as well.

“I have two classes that are reading Paradise Lost,” Klenck said. “They’re rather small classes, so we can’t undertake the whole thing ourselves. I’m hoping that people who are not necessarily involved in English might want to come and take part. They’ll hear all kinds of aspects about what makes an epic poem.”

Other aspects of the event will include Welsh translations from Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies program Morgan Davies and themed food, such as Devil’s Cake. One of the goals of the event is to raise awareness about Milton as a poet.

“I want to raise the profile of Milton a little bit,” Klenck said. “Milton is a very accessible poet. Lots of times because he uses such a big vocabulary, people are nervous that it’s going to be off-putting to read.”

Klenck is indeed working to make it accessible to everyone, as there will be extra copies of the poem at the event, along with a pronunciation list. She is also hoping that people will contact her to “reserve” their favorite parts. 

Interested students should come to the Fager Lounge in Lathrop

beginning at 12:00 p.m., and if possible, bring their own copy of the poem.

“Come and be astonished,” Klenck said.