English R1B

Reading and Composition: Narrative in Poetry, Poetry in Narrative

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2020 Nathan, Jesse
MWF 10-11 233 Dwinelle

Book List

Bollas, Christopher: Meaning and Melancholia; Brooks, Gwendolyn: Maud Martha; Riley, Atsuro: Romey's Order; Scott, Peter Dale: Coming to Jakarta;

Recommended: Bishop, Elizabeth: The Complete Poems, 1927-1979

Other Readings and Media

Some additional readings will be distributed as PDFs or handouts.


Poetry is among the oldest technologies humans have for preserving and distributing stories. While other media—film, prose fiction, gaming—seem to deliver many of our tales now, narrative in poetry persists and thrives in our time as a powerful element of the poetic imagination. But what is a narrative, and what does it matter if it's told in lines of poetry, as opposed to any other medium? How do poets use the singular possibilities of verse to set up, unfold, devastate, and define us with brilliant storytelling? What is the source and nature—and meaning—of the pleasure such poems may induce? In this course, we'll explore the roots of narrative poetry in English and discuss how old and new narrative approaches work in contemporary poems, studying the ways they use theme, plot, timing, history, evasion, exposition, argument, and description to generate power and make discoveries. And, we'll think about the ways in which the poetic imagination's capacity to help us tell our stories plays a possibly essential role in our species' functionality.

The broader purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing skills, whatever your major might be. Over the semester, you'll write and revise three papers of increasing length. We'll study the summary and synthesis of materials we read, the construction of logical and persuasive arguments, the conveying of attitudes and information. You'll learn by practicing these skills, by thinking about and talking about your own efforts and those of your fellow students, and by analyzing the work of other writers.

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