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'Paradise' can be found at reading

By Georgeanne Barrett
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 5, 2004
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12-hour marathon to bring Milton epic alive

One of the most prominent writers in English literature will be recognized today at the UA Main Library, where his work will be the focus of 12 hours of continuous reading.

"Paradise Lost," the epic poem by 17th century author John Milton, will be read in the seventh annual Milton Marathon, in which all 12 books of the poem will be read consecutively by English professors and student volunteers.

Anyone from the UA and the Tucson communities is encouraged to attend and take a turn at the open mic to read a passage from the poem.

John Ulreich, an English professor and organizer of the event, said approximately 200 students are expected to attend the marathon, which runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"I love to read Milton," Ulreich said. "This has been very successful in the past, and it is just a way for us to have fun."

Milton, besides being widely recognized as one of the greatest English poets, was also an historian, scholar, civil servant and interpreter of the Puritan revolution. The blind writer was best known for "Paradise Lost," which was first printed in 1667 and focuses on political, literary and social themes still relevant today.

The Milton Marathon is a free event and will be held today in the Special Collections section of the library.

Ulreich, a Milton enthusiast, will be at the marathon for the full 12 hours, reading the prose parts of "Paradise Lost," which he said are more difficult to read than the poetry.

"People who read Milton learn to understand it better and get a taste of it," Ulreich said. "Hearing it read allows you to understand the relevance of poetry to life."

Ulreich said no one has to stay for the full 12 hours, but he encourages people to stay as long as they can.

"Focusing for so long can be exhausting," Ulreich said. "I don't hog the microphone, anyone can come up and read."

Ulreich said the event is being sponsored by the department of English,

the College of Humanities and UA surgery professor Marlys Witte, who will provide refreshments.

Witte, who sponsors the Hearst poetry contest every year, said she enjoyed the marathon last year and was anxious to help out this year.

"We only honor athletes, entrepreneurs and scientists. I wanted to help honor poets," Witte said.

Witte, who originally wanted to be an anonymous donor, said she was more than happy to donate money to help the event.

"Things like this are why universities exist," Witte said. "I think it's great I could do something to help them."

Kelsey Reigner, a senior majoring in anthropology and English, helped to organize the Milton Marathon this year.

Reigner, who said Ulreich is her mentor, said she is glad he "passed the baton" of organizing the event to her this year.

"The Milton Marathon is an opportunity for a broad spectrum of people to come together and foster a sense of camaraderie and enjoy the brilliance of Milton's 'Paradise Lost,'" Reigner said.

Bonnie Travers, Special Collections librarian at the library, said four rare editions of "Paradise Lost," which are part of the libraries' archive collections, will be on display. Some of the rare editions include the first illustrated copy from 1688 and an edition illustrated by Gustave Dore and published in the 1880s.

Travers said the display underscores the enduring influence and long publication history of this work of literature.

Travers, who said the marathon is a truly unique event, encouraged people to take just 15 minutes to come hear the words of Milton being read aloud.

The Special Collections part of the library is located just east of the main entrance, north of the Bookend Café. The Special Collections has a separate entrance from the library.

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