English R1B

Reading and Composition: Nature Poetry and the Nature of Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
15 Spring 2018 Greenwald, Jordan
MWF 1-2 211 Dwinelle

Book List

Shakespeare, William: As You Like It

Other Readings and Media

Prose (available in course reader): Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker (excerpts); Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads; Emerson, Nature; Thoreau, Walden (excerpts); Schiller, Naïve and Sentimental Poetry (excerpts); Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense”; Burke, Philosophical Enquiry (excerpts)                       

Poetry (available in course reader): Classical pastoral poetry: Hesiod, Works and Days (excerpts), Virgil, Eclogues (excerpts); 19th century: lyric poetry by Wordsworth, Dickinson, Clare, Shelley; Modern and Contemporary: lyric poetry by Hughes, Niedecker, Rankine, Dove, Berry, Alvarez, Waldman, Conrad, Mullen, Minnis


Reading a number of texts from different genres, time periods, and literary traditions, we will think about how and why poetry has represented and reflected upon nonhuman nature since at least the classical period. In doing so, we will also ask ourselves why that might be—and the answers will likely vary. In other words, we will not take for granted the idea that the natural world has always offered an escape, a restorative force, or a source of wonderment for poets—even if it that often proves to be the case.

We will begin by reading Shakespeare’s As You Like It (along with excerpts from Hesiod’s Works and Days and Virgil’s Eclogues) in order to acquaint ourselves with the tradition of pastoral poetry.  We will then turn to the Romantic era to investigate philosophies of language that speculate about poetry’s relationship to the natural world, and to acquaint ourselves with some of the most iconic examples of nature poetry (and nature writing) in English and European literature. In the final segment of the class, we will read a survey of modern and contemporary American nature poetry, and students will craft essays that make connections between those poems and the Romantic theories of language and poetics we’ve explored.

The primary goal of the course will be to develop skills as writers and thinkers that allow you to approach these topics critically. By learning to identify and evaluate poetic techniques and intellectual positions in each text, you will adopt a mode of literary appreciation. Perhaps more important, you will learn to describe in writing how these texts work: how they construct and deconstruct, reinvent and critique the idea of “nature” as an object of poetic representation. Most importantly, this course will develop your proficiency in expository and argumentative writing and academic research skills. The purpose of an R1B course is to further the college-level critical reading and writing skills learned in R1A, as well as to develop new abilities to select, interpret, and incorporate secondary sources in an academic research paper.

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