On the bright side, I think I can say I now know Paradise Lost pretty damn well. I mean, there are like three bookcases worth of books about how to interpret PL at the university library, so I'd be kidding myself if I thought I "understood" the poem. But I at least understand it in a few different and probably relatively valid ways.
I was surprised, actually, to find that although I understand the text much better now, and appreciate the art and precision with which Milton composed it, my impression of it still hasn't significantly changed. I spent the whole semester making a point to read the poem, as far as possible, the way I thought Milton would have wanted it read, taking God's goodness and righteousness pretty much for granted, and avoiding the temptation to sympathize with Satan. But now that the class is over, I find that I feel pretty much the same way about Milton's treatment of Christianity as I felt the first time I read it -- I think, first of all, that the task of "justifying the ways of God to men" was hopeless from the get-go, given the text of Genesis and the Christian doctrine that Milton had to work with; and I think Milton made some severe errors of calculation in deciding just how sympathetic to make Satan and just how odious to make God. 'Cause his Satan is pretty much a perfect Byronic hero, aristocratic, arrogant, tormented, flawed and petty and even somewhat despicable, but a lot less ugly even than, say, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. God, on the other hand, goes about doing a lot of the same damn things Satan does, only they're supposed to be viewed as completely different and good merely because it was God and not Satan who did them. Which reminds me of something Milton himself said in his De Doctrina Christiana (emphasis mine):
In short, many visible proofs, the verification of numberless predictions, a multitude of wonderful works have compelled all nations to believe, either that God, or that some evil power whose name was unknown, presided over the affairs of the world....Yeah. He then concludes that it must be God, not He-Who-
Oh religion. What can one possibly do with you.
(LOLWTF, 24 hours of essay-writing and apparently I wasn't tired of talking about Milton after all. Sheez.)
One more exam to go. There's no food in the house except for like ten zillion tamales, so I think I'll go buy some Little Caesar's breadsticks for $1.50 to celebrate the completion of the Essay of Doom. And then start studying for the most boring linguistics test ever.
...AND THEN FREEDOM OH MY GOD.