The 13th Annual Milton Marathon was held on Friday, November 19, 2010, in the UA Library's Special Collections
John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, tells the story of humanity from the beginning down to our present moment and beyond, even to the end of time. As we read through the poem, we experience once again our original fall from innocence—the story about the boy, the girl, and the snake that is told in Genesis and retold in the life of every reader. And we also experience our recovery from that tragic loss, rising out of the ashes of our former selves like a Phoenix. We begin in Hell, among the angels who have rebelled against God and who refuse to accept their outcast fate. We move next to Heaven, to hear the Father’s condemnation of our trespass and the Son’s offer to restore us to life. And then we journey to Paradise to meet our Great Parents, the fountain of our wondrous life and the source of all our woe. From these three nodal points - Earth, Hell, and Heaven - the poem moves outward to embrace the whole cosmos and inward to focus on those intimate moments of choice that create and recreate all of us. At the end we are left to wonder, like Milton’s Adam, whether to mourn our bitter loss or to “rejoice / Much more that much more good thereof shall spring.”
Professor John Ulreich has been teaching Milton for more than forty years. In the late 1990s while lurking on the Milton listserv, he noticed that marathon readings of Paradise Lost were springing up like mushrooms all over the world, not only in England and America, but in places as unexpected as Norway and New Zealand. He asked the students in his Milton class whether they would be interested in organizing such an event; the response was enthusiastic, and so in 1998 the first annual Milton Marathon was born. That year, thirty-eight students and other guests spent from one to twelve hours reading Paradise Lost aloud to each other; one year over two hundred people attended - one of whom had been present at the very first marathon in the Old Student Union. The annual reading of Milton’s poem has now become a tradition. Lovers of poetry gather every fall to celebrate Milton’s achievement and to pay tribute to the enduring relevance of poetry. Everyone who wishes to do so is welcome to join us.
In recent years, the Marathon has taken place in the Special Collections Conference Room of the Main Library, which now feels like home. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, the Department of English, the College of Humanities, Professor Marlys Witte (in the Department of Surgery), and by W.W. Norton Publishing Company.