English 165

Special Topics: The End of the Poem: Poetic Closure

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2014 O'Brien, Geoffrey G.
TTh 2-3:30 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

All primary and secondary readings will be in a course reader, available at Metro Publishing on Bancroft.


This class addresses an inevitable feature of all poems, the last line: the position from which the poem’s entire form is, for the first time, apprehended. This focus will require attention to all the formal and thematic principles by which a poem generates itself, deferring then delivering (or thwarting) the sense of an ending. In addition to the question I.A. Richards poses in his essay “How Does a Poem Know When It is Finished?” we’ll ask some versions of the following: Can a poem end without concluding? What comes after the last line of the poem? Why do so many poems close by recalling their beginnings? How have closural strategies in English poetry changed over time? We’ll pair theoretical accounts of closure with test-cases from across the history of poetry in English, acquiring along the way some facility with its prosodies, its use of figures from classical rhetoric (especially figures of repetition), and its major and minor formal environments.

Update (on June 26):  We were previously not sure whether this section of English 165 would be offered or not, but now we know that it WILL be offered.


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