Sunday, March 6, 2011

An Intimate Evening with Milton

If they put that up on the marquis at the Chicago Theater, I doubt they could sell any tickets.  My Milton professor likes to joke, "I'd love to just sit down and have a beer with so many of the greats  -- James Joyce, Wordsworth... Shakespeare!  Me and Shakespeare'd get roaring drunk!  But not Milton.  I wouldn't have a drink with him.  What the hell would I have to say to Milton?" 

Dr. Johnson ("This Dr. Johnson, not the other!" -- also a running joke) doesn't doubt that Milton has plenty to say, but what do you say back to someone who is so learned, so poetically gifted, so...temperate?  If he were here, I don't know that he would enjoy a drink with any of us.

I'm taking a break from Milton midterm studying to do a big brain dump and ask a quick question, one I've asked here before.  What the hell is "studying"? 

Do you re-read everything?  Re-skim it?  Write stuff down?  And what do you write down?  In high school, in undergrad, I never really had to study, except to reread the philosophy a couple of times.  I took notes in class, retained them in my noggin.  I don't think that will continue to fly in grad school, especially reading a hundred pages a week per class.

Here's what I'm doing -- I made a chronological list of the works we've read, dated them, and wrote summaries of them from memory with key terms for each (i.e. pastoral elegy).  Now I'm going to go back with the book and add in anything important that I missed. This is mostly for piece identification, since the essay is open book.

How do you study?  Really, I'd like to know.


  1. One word (or is it two): Flashcards, lots and lots of flashcards.

    I'm actually considering starting a flashcard business (I'm the envy of my art history course. What with my access to a color printer and all). I'm seriously considering lamenting this most recent batch, just to inspire that extra envy. Yes, I realize I'm sick :)

  2. I am a huge proponent of typing up my notes. Being forced to review all of my class notes and go through everything I scribbled in the margins really helps me organize my thoughts. Plus, I hope that if I ever need them again, I will be much happier with neatly typed pages rather than all those random notebooks!

    Just came across your site - will definitely be back! I write a good bit about the sticky world of study skills too:

  3. @Marisa -- Good idea! I make pages and pages of scribbles, then just keep glancing over them hoping to re-absorb something. We are actually keeping Commonplace Books on our Milton readings, so it might be helpful to type those entries up.

    @Lauren - I don't know if flashcards a very helpful with literature, with the exception of something like the subject GRE test. For that you are just memorizing mnemonics and other brain-joggers, because you can't possibly read for the test. Flashcards could help with those.

    No one did great on the Milton midterm (even the advanced grads were baffled by some things on there), but I have to say that writing out the works in chronological order really helped. Because Milton's mostly have to do with stuff that's going on in England or in his life (with the exception of PL maybe), knowing what order they go in makes everything fall into place.


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