Today I Learned (TIL) is my play on Reddit’s highly entertaining and informative forum.
I’m still slowly making my way through John Milton’s Paradise Lost and another thing that amazes me about this epic poem is how much influence it has had on writers, poets, artists, filmmakers and musicians over the centuries. I started looking at where Paradise Lost and pop culture intersect, and here are a few tidbits that caught my attention:
The Devil’s Advocate
In the 1987 movie, The Devil’s Advocate, the devilish character played by Al Pacino was named John Milton.
It wasn’t easy. I forced myself to read books on the devil and on hell. I had never read Milton’s “Lost Paradise” or Dante’s “Inferno,” and I must say the experience was fantastic. ~ Al Pacino
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Interview With A Vampire
Writer and director, Neil Jordan, said that he was inspired by John Milton while making Interview With the Vampire, his 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice’s vampire novel.
“I always remember reading ‘Paradise Lost’ when I was a kid and being fascinated by the figure of Lucifer … His dilemmas were far more fascinating than the dilemmas of the good angels.” ~ Neil Jordan
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National Lampoon’s Animal House
Who can resist chuckling at Donald Sutherland’s comments about Paradise Lost in the 1978 movie National Lampoon’s Animal House? I sure couldn’t!
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His Dark Materials
Author Philip Pullman wrote the His Dark Materials trilogy with the intention of producing a version of Paradise Lost that was not only accessible to teenagers, but that largely modeled and expanded on John Milton’s work.
“I hadn’t expected ever to write a fantasy, because I am not a great fantasy fan. But I realized that I could use the apparatus of fantasy to say things that I thought were true. Which was exactly what, I then realized, Milton had been doing with Paradise Lost. Paradise Lost is not a story of people and some other people who’ve got wings … Paradise Lost is a great psychological novel that happens to be cast in the form of a fantasy, because the devils and the angels are, of course, embodiments of psychological states.” ~ Philip Pullman
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The Mad Woman in the Attic
In 1979, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar published The Mad Woman in the Attic, a feminist text in which they argued women writers during the Victorian age like Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and the Brontë sisters to name a few, were expected to create female characters that were either angels or monsters. The book refers to Paradise Lost specifically with regards to John Milton’s depiction of Eve.
“It is in earlier, lonelier works, in novels like Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights, that we can see the female imagination expressing its anxieties about Paradise Lost most overtly. And Frankenstien in particular is a fictionalized rendition of the meaning of Paradise Lost to women.” ~ The Mad Woman in the Attic
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Of course, there are plenty of heavy metal bands and opera composers who have been influenced by John Milton, but who caught my attention the most was rap artist, Eminem. Although he has denied ever reading poetry, Eminem has been highly praised by literary experts and writers for the poetic elements in his music lyrics. I recently discovered that his music video for Rap God contains illustrations and text from Paradise Lost. Who would’ve thunk?
I may need to read the His Dark Materials series and The Mad Woman in the Attic after I finish Paradise Lost. Have you read any of these books?