British Lit: John Milton’s Paradise Lost – The American Antihero Essay



PDF file. Cover plus one page. I created this two-page essay assignment as a way to help my students better understand the influence of John Milton’s Lucifer in Paradise Lost on contemporary American storytelling. I used this assignment with success during both years that I taught Paradise Lost. Note: This assignment uses the 2017 article, “What’s So ‘American’ About John Milton’s Lucifer?” by Edward Simon in The Atlantic. Make sure your students can access the article before ordering this resource. I have always been able to access it easily online.
The assignment directions read as follows: “Use the article, “What’s So ‘American’ About Milton’s Lucifer?” to introduce your reader to a contemporary “Luciferian antihero” of your own choosing. Your antihero should be, as described by the article, “an American type who invents their own rules.”  
Instead of discussing Tony Soprano, Walter White, or Don Draper (as the article does), think of another antihero from a movie or book that fits this description as set forth in the article: “a confidence man, rebel, and supposed advocate of liberty, a self-made individualist setting out into the wilderness to make his own world anew.”
When students see similarities between Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost to a popular antihero character (Deadpool, for example), the poem holds greater relevance than it otherwise would. Helping students observe the continuing impact of British literature on popular culture is always my goal, and this basic essay assignment helps me reach that goal.
You can extend this assignment by having students present their American antihero comparisons and reveal how their antihero shares qualities with Milton’s Satan.
If you need an assignment to help your students connect to Paradise Lost, try this one. Thank you!


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