English 165

Special Topics: Hardly Strictly Lyric Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2013 Hanson, Kristin
MW 4-5:30 109 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

CDs including songs of Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keene and others, as well as a course reader.


Historically and etymologically, lyric poetry was poetry sung to the accompaniment of a lyre.  Most lyric poetry studied as English literature today, however, reflecting "literature"'s own history and etymology, is precisely that which is related to the genre in ways other than by being sung.  The aim of this course is to study some lyric poetry which continues to flourish in its traditional form of song. 

We will focus on songs in one particular tradition which occupies a special place in contemporary local culture:  those sung by a set of (mostly West) Texans who perform regularly at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival held in Golden Gate Park in October.   We will consider the songs' lyrics' poetic form, including rhyme, alliteration, meter and syntactic parallelism; their imagery; differences between lyric and narrative songs; the tradition's relation to its place, including its mixture of bluegrass, blues and tejana influences; and some special issues arising for sung as opposed to unsung poetry.   The course will include attendance at the festival itself, and possibly other outings as well.

This course is open to English majors only.

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