English R1B

Reading and Composition: Thinking Through Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
22 Spring 2013 Lee, Richard Z
TTh 5-6:30 223 Wheeler

Book List

Lehman, David: The Oxford Book of American Poetry; Ricks, Christopher: The Oxford Book of English Verse;

Recommended: Eagleton, Terry: How to Read a Poem


"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
"Poetry makes nothing happen."

Behind Percy Bysshe Shelley's exalted claim for poetry's shaping influence on the outside world and W.H. Auden's skeptical rejoinder lie the poems themselves and those that create them. Over the course of the semester, we'll take a fresh look at some major examples of the Anglophone poetic tradition of the past 500-plus years, as we attempt to situate our understanding of this literary form within the range of possibilities suggested by the very different claims of Shelley and Auden. In the process, we’ll introduce and develop students’ close reading skills, paying close attention to matters of form and content. Some of the more specific questions we’ll investigate as we proceed through the centuries will involve the role of poetic genre; the competing claims of the public and private worlds; and the political, commercial, and creative pressures poets have historically confronted. No experience with reading poetry is necessary—only a willingness to engage closely with rich and challenging material.

Through frequent composition, class discussions, and one-on-one conferences, this course will further develop students’ understanding of the process, discipline, and pleasures of writing. It will also familiarize them with the varied resources of the University library. Students will ultimately produce a total of at least thirty-two pages of writing across several essays, including a longer research assignment due at the end of the semester on a poet of their choice.  

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