English 250

Research Seminar: The Grammar of Poetry, the Poetry of Grammar

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2015 Altieri, Charles F.
M 11-1 305 Wheeler

Book List

Ashbery, John: Collected Poems; Bergson, Henri: Time and Free Will; Heidegger, Martin: Introduction to Metaphysics; Husserl, Edmund: Cartesian Meditations; O'Brien, Geoffrey: Sunday in the Park; Robertson, Lisa: The Weather; Shakespeare, William: Sonnets; Stevens , Wallace: Collected Poetry and Prose; Wittgenstein, Ludwig: Philosophical Investigations; Yeats, William Butler: Collected Poems

Other Readings and Media

There will be a lot of material on bcourses.


I want to try a course that explores what Wittgenstein calls philosophical grammar, on the assumption that poets are the most likely characters to develop the full conceptual implications of how we deploy grammatical elements in our structuring of experience.  I have been trying to teach myself linguistics so that I can steer students within its resources.  But the focus of this class will be on how poetic structures define relational possibilities for understanding how we can make significant relationships between language and the world.  Let me give a few examples.  We will read Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics and Bergson’s Time and Free Will, then do one or two classes on the ontological differences between poems relying on “is” and poems relying on “as.”  We will read Wittgenstein to flesh out how “now” introduces subjectivity into the world and can carry exclamatory force.  We will discuss deictics like “here” and “this” under the influence of Lisa Robertson’s work in The Weather.  We will read Husserl in relation to prepositions stressing modes of orienting ourselves toward the world.  ETC.

Students will participate in the course in two ways.  Small groups of students will lead discussions on poems that afford particularly interesting applications of the grammatical form we are discussing.  Or students can write poems which we will discuss for their grammatical impact.  Final papers can concentrate on one poet or one grammatical figure or compare and contrast poets and/or grammatical figures.

This course satisfies the Group 5 (Twentieth Century) or Group 6 (Non-historical) requirement.

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