The assignment was to present a project that would aid in the interpretation of Milton's Paradise Lost. I chose to creatively re-tell the story from Lucifer's perspective, making him a distinctly more sympathetic character than Milton's portrayal.
The Letters are written from a cultural criticism perspective with each letter focusing on a particular theory within that broad branch of criticism. I attempted my hand at cultural criticism by examining the culture of Milton's time period and challenging it by reinterpretation. As he was influenced by his times, so am I influenced by mine.
Eve's Letter is inspired by feminist theory. During the reading of the text, I was irritated by the objectified nature of Eve's presentation--how she was valued for her looks, how her mind was inferior to that of Adam, and how, most importantly, she was constructed as a gift for Adam. In other words, according to Milton, there was biblical sanction for the sexist treatment of women. As a product of the 21st century, this did not sit well with me, thus I set about revising this depiction of Eve in particular and women in general through Lucifer/Satan (whom I half-seriously describe as the world's greatest feminist).
The letters to Adam, Michael, and the Serpent focus on a broader criticism of Milton's general ideology. In the letter to Adam, I focus mostly on Milton's valuation of ignorance and question Milton's definition of Death. Milton portrays Death as destruction, while Lucifer posits Death as gateway towards deeper level of human understanding.
Michael's Letter challenges the assumed nature of God that saturates the original text as well as our contemporary culture. Lucifer questions God's self-proclaimed mercy, the quality of his goodness, the moral high ground of the angels, and the nature of free will (which, admittedly, is a running theme throughout all the letters).
The Serpent's Letter implicitly questions the Chain of Being, which Lucifer never explicitly names. However, if one were to stretch a bit and look at the letter in a funky sort of way, one could say that it was reminiscent of a Marxist criticism of the text. Lucifer directly questions the existence of a hierarchical world. In a way, he addresses the serpent as a disenfranchised individual because God has kept from the serpent its reason and stolen its voice. Thus, it is incapable of speaking and articulating the self because of the exploitation of a divinity.
Beelzebub's Letter is the most simplistic of the four as it is a simple retelling of Book 2. The letter utilizes the conceit of Lucifer anticipating the moves and desires of several fallen angels, while asking Beelzebub to consider motioning Lucifer's plan to "corrupt" Adam and Eve. However, even though the letter is largely a plot summary to help unfortunate students muddle their way through Milton's thick, cement-like prose, it also more clearly questions the ideas of good and evil as Milton as presented them. In a larger context, the letter is an example of someone re-evaluating truths that a society holds to be self-evident. I borrow some of Satan's words from lines in Milton's poem, but I put them in a new light as Lucifer, himself, is in a process of reinterpreting the ideology surrounding him and his downfall.
So though this could be more aptly called a reinterpretation of the value systems and ideology in Milton's poem, it requires an interpretation of the poem and a subsequent challenge of that interpretation to arrive at a finished product.
I chose the epistolary form because I thought it an apt genre to cover multiple points in a brief, poignant sort of way while still maintaining a sense of character. Also, the New Testament has its letters--why shouldn't the devil have his?
I chose the blog because the epic poem was once proof of a great nation. Well, whereas Milton's society aims high and eclectic, today's society aims low and democratic. I think that Lucifer would have appreciated the egalitarian nature of the internet and of the Blog.