Get ready literature lovers, a marathon is coming to ETSU this week.
The Milton Marathon returns to campus this Thursday in the Reece Museum from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The event, which takes place every two years with a Milton course, consists of a nonstop reading of John Milton’s 1667 masterpiece, “Paradise Lost.” The reading begins with ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland.
According to Dr. Joshua Reid, a main organizer of the event, the event has an interesting history.
“It is called a marathon because we read, non-stop, the entirety of ‘Paradise Lost,’ which is 12 books and over 10,000 lines of verse, so it is kind of an endurance event,” he said.” It typically takes about nine hours and a half to get through it all. In some ways you can call it a marathon relay, as volunteers help read throughout the day. A funny fact, in 2014, our Milton Marathon was covered in the Washington Times for some reason, and it was filed in the sports section of that publication.”
For Reid, students in his courses play an active and crucial role in the event.
“I rely heavily on the students in the Milton and His Age class to help organize and promote the event,” he said. “The Milton and His Age course is offered every two years in the fall, so the Marathon has always been organized along with the course. The students who take the course help organize and promote the event, and they are an essential part of its success.”
The art of reading such a poem aloud actually helps the audience understand where Milton was coming from.
“Since Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost, he composed it orally, so the poem has a distinct sonic effect that you have to experience through the ear, via reading and/or listening,” said Reid.
According to Reid, Milton’s work resonates with modern writers as well.
“Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ remains one of the most influential works of literature ever written,” he said. “Some of the contemporary works it has influenced range from C.S. Lewis’s ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ to the television show ‘Supernatural.’ You could argue that ‘Paradise Lost’ is the most influential work of Biblical fan fiction ever written, and anyone interested in poetry, in the themes and characters from Genesis, in visual art, in oral performance, will get something out of this event.”
In addition to the poem, there is a special exhibition space of Milton-inspired art, including a rare suite of illustrations of “Paradise Lost” by Salvador Dali, an exhibit of rare 17th-20th century illustrated editions of the poem, and student art and poetry inspired by the text. Students who attend the marathon are eligible for a special prize drawing, including a $100 Barnes and Noble gift card, copies of “Paradise Lost” or Milton Marathon T-shirts.
“It will be a Miltonextravaganza!” said Reid.
The event is free and open to the public.
For more information on the event you can check out its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/miltonmarathon.