English R1B

Reading and Composition: Varieties of Confession in American Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Spring 2019 Swensen, Dana
MWF 1-2 211 Dwinelle

Book List

Berryman, John : The Dream Songs; Lowell, Robert: Life Studies ; Plath, Sylvia : Ariel Poems ; Sexton, Anne: To Bedlam and Part Way Back


This course will cover a body of American poetry generally written between 1950 and 1970, with particular emphasis on the works of Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, John Berryman, and Elizabeth Bishop. Topics of study will include: the relationship between form and content in the definition of what constitutes 'lyric' versus 'narative' poetry; questions of gender in relation to the lyric, and the scope of poetry in relation to particular forms of mental illness. We will be historically contextualizing our understandings of the lyric during this period by also considering contemporaneous ideas about illness and psychology from the time in which these authors were writing. Our readings will cover a grouping of writers who often emerge under the heading of 'confession,' but part of the course's aim will be to complicate and broaden our understanding of what 'confession' might mean in relation to lyric, specifically the difference between confession as a mode of poetic speech, and 'Confessional' as a historical marker of a particular group of writers. Throughout, we will be honing the skills which the R & C Course is designed to cultivate, expanding our available repertoire of knowledge of writing skills in relation to poetry, and developing the research skills which are fundamental to the production of strong academic research papers.

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