English R1A

Reading and Composition: How to Read "How to Read Poetry"

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2013 Acu, Adrian Mark
MWF 1-2 222 Wheeler

Book List

Eagleton, Terry: How to Read a Poem; Polonsky, Mark: The Poetry Reader's Toolkit: A Guide to Reading and Understanding Poetry; Pound, Ezra: ABC Of Reading; Vendler, Helen: Poems, Poets, Poetry; Zukofsky, Louis: A Test of Poetry


1. The class title is not a typo.

2. Poetry is often considered to be the least self-explanatory form of literature.

3. Expositions on poetry often offer only limited aid.

Though one must accept the first two points if one is going to take this class, I hope to spend the semester exploring the third point.

How many of you were first taught to read poetry according to how it made you feel? Or by comparing poems to a list of poetic techniques? How many of you felt as if these tutorials either cultivated a taste for poetry, or prepared you to actually read poetry?

In this class, we will consider why attempts to teach poetry often fail by studying guidebooks that claim to teach students how to read poetry and anthologies by thinkers and poets curated to provide a poetic education. We will consider their approaches to reading as well as what poems they choose in order to ascertain their projects' agendas. By juxtaposing these differing perspectives on what poetry does - and what to do with it - we will come to understand how the poem's attractiveness might be tied to how unsettled our sense of it is.

After a short diagnostic essay, you will write 3 papers of increasing length while going through a peer-review process to better acclimate yourself to critical writing. 

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