CMRS Lectures Series 21: Lecture on Something Heard: John Milton’s Night at the Opera by Professor John Rumrich Successfully Held in ZJU


      In the afternoon of October 25, 2019, at the invitation of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) of the School of International Studies (SIS) of Zhejiang University, Professor John P. Rumrich, a renowned scholar from University of Texas at Austin, delivered a lecture—Something Heard: John Milton's Night at the Opera to students and teachers at Conference Room 201 of East Building 5. Presided by Professor Shen Hong, the lecture was attended by Professor Hao Tianhu and Professor Luo Yimin from Southwest University and many students interested in the topic. The participants listened to the lecture attentively and had a lively Q & A session with the Professor.

     Prof. Shen first gave a brief introduction to Prof. Rumrich, from University of Texas at Austin and President of Milton Society of America. Prof. Rumrich thanked Shen for his introduction and the invitation from Prof. Hao, and expressed his honor of discussing Milton at Zhejiang University.

    A study of Milton’s biography is a must to make an analysis of Milton’s works. Prof. Rumrich chose a new perspective in his speech, i.e. an anecdote of Milton--as a well-known Puritan, he was invited to “carnival” in Rome and listen to the local opera during his visit to Italy. Rumrich expounded the experience of Milton and his influence on his works from two aspects: the evidence of Milton’s stay in “carnival” in Rome and the development of Italian music in Milton’s time.

      First, Rumrich showed the timeline for Milton’s trip to Italy and description of Milton’s love for music in the books by early biographers, and made a sound speculation that Milton had listened to operas in Rome. Prof. Rumrich then showed the obscure words and sentences related to music and “carnival” in Milton’s manuscript, which confirmed his speculation. Rumrich explained what “carnival” was and the particularity of the carnival Milton joined, and said that Milton’s portrayal of “pandemonium” in Paradise Lost was a reflection of his indulgence in the carnival. In addition, he explained why Milton loved music but avoided talking about experience in the carnival.

    After that, Prof. Rumrich outlined Italian music at that time, in particular, the concept and origins of castrato. Professor Rumrich believed that both Bhagachu’s work and the castrato influenced Milton’s literary creation and even his personal life, such as his portrayal of virginity, castration, and his subsequent choice of marriage. For the concept of “castration”, he first compared Shakespeare’s sonnets with Milton’s works on the theme of “procreation”, and then pointed out “castration” was actually the transformation of “You’ve got to be more than you win”, “suffer to hope”, and Milton’s own feelings of blindness.

    Finally, the lecture ended with warm applause and there came the Q & A session on the tradition of “carnival”, religious views in Hamlet, gender issues in Twelfth Night: Or What You Will, Milton’s autobiography and so on.

   Erudite Professor Rumrich presented the attendees a different perspective of Milton, which elicited a deeper understanding of his works. The attendees were also very much impressed by his conscientiousness in doing research and strong academic atmosphere of his studies.

Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

October 25, 2019  

Translated by Li Yunqian

Edited by Xu Xueying

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