Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reading Mutations

Ever since I got back to reading—thanks to Paul’s beginning with Milton, whom I did not want to miss—I have been considering my own reading project. I think in typical fashion I have over-specified (the scheduling moreso than the list). I knew I would, I always do, hence the Mutating Goals section in my reading strategy.

Paul’s enthusiasm for Browne has got me considering how narrow my project is, and additionally, I have always fought with the absence of the ancients in it. Most immediately, I find that in returning to poetry there is a sense of beckoning which has the feel of either destiny or siren song. Which raises the question—after Milton, what then? I had considered climbing aboard the Eliott with Paul, as my own project is feeling a bit rudderless. But I still think this, for me, is a mistake. I have a strong desire to focus on verse—be it long or short, epic or lyric. I have a secondary desire to lay a broad foundation, particularly in areas of particular weakness—science, history, philosophy. And this is precisely why I suggest concurrent reading, though my eagerness and zeal outstripped my ability to keep up with my schedule—not to mention that with the prospect of landing a job and going back to school, my personal reading time will take a huge hit.

What to do? I want to read every title on my original list. I want to dip once again into narrative verse with Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Spenser, and Milton. I want to continue with Shakespeare, and make a sweeping survey of the entire English poetic tradition. I want to read criticism and other adjuncts on these works. And I also want to make a sweeping survey of philosophy, science, and history. The question of order and priority is a difficult one. And my questionable discipline in staying with a project is another.

For now there is Milton—Paradise Lost is my lifeline, my home ground, just as Don Quixote was previously. War and Peace suffered from my burnout and other circumstances, just as Shakespeare keeps getting put aside. For now there is Milton, and I will go read him, and then consider how to pull my project back together.

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