Friday, June 12, 2009

A Study of Despair in Paradise Lost by Joan F Gilliland

I have been editing my paper
on Milton's despair.
I love finding sentences that need weeding out;
the hope of creating a well written paper
swells, a joy, hiding within me,
as I sit by the window in the 5th floor
of the University library.
I discovered a former Professor
former as she died in 1997. Cancer at 65.
is her name.
she wrote a PdD on Milton's despair
in 1977
I was 1 years old,
she was 45.
I am a librarian
and did my research to find her work.
I found out where she taught.
I found an obituary online
announcing her death.
She was the daughter in the 1930s
to Missionaries in the Philippines.
She must of been a fascinating woman.
Her funeral was at a Christian place;
I pray that she died a Christian,
just like I pray that I will one day also die.
Meanwhile I am reading the printed pages
of her PhD
typed, printed from microfilm;
and I learn so much
and think of her,
wondering at the amount of hope
she felt writing
complex sentences on despair.
It is a surprisingly hopeful topic,
she talks about the theological history
of the Church Fathers, of Aquinas,
of the 17th Century,
of deep Christian truths.
I hope it made her feel as alive
as it does for me.
For it is in hope that we can say of her,
Memory Eternal.


E Helena E said...

A beautiful post.
Memory Eternal!

elizabeth said...

Thank you E-H. Yes, Memory Eternal!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Memory Eternal !

Anne said...

She was my mother. I don't know why I decided to google her name today. But I'm glad someone remembers her and sees where her heart was. She taught her Milton class for the last time right before she died. We still miss her. Thanks for talking about her.

elizabeth said...


Your welcome. I loved your Mother's writing. I still have a copy of her PhD that I had inter-library loaned here.

I never had the privilege of meeting your mother (sorry for the confusion, I see how it happened) but when I read Milton again and saw the despair in Paradise Lost, I quickly (as I am a librarian) found your Mother's work in my research.

I would of loved to have met her; I researched her name until I discovered that she had died; I learned so much by reading her thesis. I thought of her a lot - what would it of been like to write a PhD at 45 years old, and to be delving into deep Christian truths.

I can tell you that the PhD that I borrowed was checked out many times (the old stamp dates are with it) and that her life and her work impacted me and my research.

I would love to hear more about her and her work - if you ever want to email me about her, please let me know.

I am glad she has a daughter named Anne.

The Lord's blessings to you. Memory Eternal to your Mother; may God always remember her in His kingdom.

Anne said...

Sure, I'd be glad to talk about her more. I don't see a way to email you from this blog, but you can contact me at annetgilliland at gmail dot com. She wrote an essay in a book called The Road Retaken: Women Reenter the Academy (1985) that gives you a glimpse of her personality and life post-dissertation.