I am interested in writing about Milton's characterization of his character of Satan, because it actually depends a lot on the medieval sources that came before. THe Caedmon poem "Christ and Satan" has almost line by line similarities with Satan in "Paradise Lost". The bestial characterizations in "Malleus Maleficarum" are important to understand that people of Milton's time would not only have believed the devil was real, but also that he could shape shift (as he does in the garden with Eve). Even Dante's devil, which on the surface seems so different, is similar in emotions and in his reaction to his situation.
I became interested in this idea while taking a course on "Paradise Lost" two summers ago at Bread Loaf School of English. I enjoy medieval studies, but I am also very interested in the gaps of Biblical literature- literature that is responsible for what most modern people view as the Bible, but in fact comes from other sources. William Blake's old quote of "people knowing their Milton better than their Bible" comes to mind.
In the beginning, I submitted this idea as an Independent Reading Project to complete over the year. My Milton professor was nice enough to work with me on it, and I felt very good about the research. As well as completely sucked in the more I read. However, my proposal was rejected as being ill laid out, and too big for a 35 page paper.
However, I was given another chance to revisit the topic with taking Critical Writing in English Studies as East Carolina University this semester. We were able to pick our own topics that we wanted to study and use for writing a conference proposal and an outline for a thesis/dissertation. The class is amazingly helpful as I was never taught HOW to craft scholarly articles, we we re always just left to our own devices to figure it out.
I had a break through this past week when my professor responded to my topic proposal. It was nothing he said, BUT what we've been covering in class suddenly popped into my head as I was reading his comments. We've talked a lot about HOW to approach a topic and one of the ways was to look at the gaps, what is not covered in scholarly research. I realized that was a big part of my topic- why had no one researched this?
Now, this is a bit of a risky proposition, as I am making the assumption that no one has. However, now, with almost a year of research behind me, I feel confident saying that a gap exists.