English R1B

Reading and Composition: Decadent Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
15 Fall 2018 Viragh, Atti
MW 5-6:30 279 Dwinelle

Book List

Baudelaire, Charles: Les Fleurs du Mal; Wilde, Oscar: The Major Works


“The ballads teem with imagination, they palpitate with emotion. We read them with laughter and tears; the metres throb in our pulses, the cunningly-ordered words tingle with life; and if this be not poetry, what is?” So wrote the critic William Archer in 1901, as he tried to describe how it felt to read a contemporary poet’s work. The closing decades of the nineteenth century witnessed profound changes in sociopolitical, scientific, and artistic life. It was all the poets could do to keep up; what could they add to this age of “progress” and prose, when novels were considered more serious literature, and the major cultural debates were being carried out in essay form? In these disorienting times, poets took advantage of the freedom they had when no one was looking. They began to think in surprising new ways about the relationship of poetry to the body, the senses, and the material and social world. They may even have invented some of the ways we think about poetry today. In this class, we will situate these poets alongside essays from the period, as well as one key novel, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. We will explore the rich variety of poetic styles and theories they came up with, and speculate about what they have contributed to our own ideas about poetry’s pressures, powers, touches and tingles. 

This writing-intensive class builds on the skills developed in R1A. It is designed to extend your knowledge of the arts of reading and writing, while introducing the fundamentals of researching, evaluating and working with secondary sources. In addition to weekly discussion posts, three essays will be required, in draft and revision, followed by a final research paper.

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