Thursday 23 October 2008, 9 am-9 pm approx., Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio, Faculty of English




why 23 October?>>>

On 23 October 2008 we presented an all-day reading of Milton's great poem Paradise Lost. This epic retelling of the fall of the rebel angels and of Adam and Eve was read by members of the Faculty of English and broadcast live online.

The reading took place in the Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio in the Faculty of English, 9 West Road [map]. The studio is a large black cube in the basement of the building. Some books were therefore read with an absolute minimum of visual stimulus, allowing listeners to remember Milton's own blindness and to relate it to the kinds of darkness - moral and visible - which he imagines in the poem. Other books used the space to offer a more dramatic rendition, or to put the poetry in dialogue with projected images. Book I featured an installation, 'Liquid fire', by Issam Kourbaj, artist in residence at Christ's College. Each book was assigned to a different senior member of the Faculty of English, who read it or oversaw its performance.

As well as being relayed live online, a video feed of the reading was relayed to a lecture room in the Faculty building to enable people to listen to less than a full book, or to follow the reading no matter when they arrived or needed to leave.  Members of the audience were allowed to enter or leave the Drama Studio itself between books but not during them.

For those who missed any or all of the performance, each book is now available here as a podcast.



These were the performers, with approximate timings. Click on the book number for a plot summary

9 am

Book I

Gavin Alexander, with ‘Liquid fire’ by Issam Kourbaj

c. 9.50

Book II

Drew Milne

c. 10.55

Book III

Helen Cooper

c. 11.40

Book IV

Eric Griffiths


1 pm


Book V


Fred Parker, with Jeremy Hardingham (God), Stephen Logan (Adam), and Jacqueline Tasioulas (Eve)

c. 1.55

Book VI

Paul Hartle

c. 2.55

Book VII

Daniel Wakelin, with Christopher Burlinson, Hester Lees-Jeffries, Leo Mellor, Subha Mukherji, Sophie Read, Gabriel Roberts, Marcus Tomalin, and Andrew Zurcher

c. 3.35


Jean Chothia, with Raphael Lyne (Raphael), Subha Mukherji (God), and Jason Scott-Warren (Adam)


4.30 pm


Book IX


Jeremy Hardingham, with Alice Goodman and Jonathan Styles

c. 5.40

Book X

Abigail Rokison, with Tamara Astor, Max Barton, Hannah Blaikie, Holly Cracknell, Suzanne Chrystal, Liane Grant, Phoebe Haines, Katherine Jack, Jess Labhart, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Rory Stallibrass, Alex Town, and Jessie Wyld

c. 6.50

Book XI

Sophie Read, with Gavin Alexander, Subha Mukherji, Jane Partner, and Daniel Wakelin

c. 7.45

Book XII

Adrian Poole (Michael), with Stephen Logan (Adam), Emma Leadbetter (Eve), and Jeremy Hardingham


Why 23 October?

In 1650 Milton's contemporary Bishop James Ussher published Annales Veteris Testamenti, translated into English as The Annals of the World Deduced from the Origin of Time (1658). In this work he dated the start of Creation to the evening before 23 October 4004 BC. At noon on 23 October, Ussher argued, 'the light was created; which God severing from the darknesse, called the one day, and the other night'. Ussher was one of Milton's opponents in his anti-prelatical tracts, and Milton doubtless thought the Bishop a fool. We do not believe that the 23 October 2008 was in fact the 6011th anniversary of the Creation - and we don't think that Milton would either. But we chose this date in a spirit of fun and of setting Milton in his context - a context with which he was often out of step.

Ussher, The Annals of the World (1658), p. 1; the dates in the right-hand columns are mis-ordered by the printer


Click here for podcasts of the reading

Maintained by Olamalu | Last updated Fri, 30 Oct 2015 - 10:30am