English 180L

Lyric Verse

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2020 Altieri, Charles F.
MWF 11-12 2062 VLSB

Book List

Norton Anthology of Poetry


This course will survey lyric poetry in English from the Renaissance to the present, with an emphasis on pre-modern work. I am mostly interested in two aspects of the work. The first is understanding how lyric can define different complete modes of sensibility that I think we have to enter in order fully to appreciate the poetry. I want you to get a sense of how the rhetorical sensibility of the Renaissance produces a distinctive sense of what matters about the powers of mind in the making and the desired attitudes of responders to that making. I will also stress what is involved in two dimensions of romantic sensibility—its triumphant cult of genius and its ironic dissatisfactions with sensibilities who could trust in lyric genius. This second stage covers most of the later nineteenth century. Then I want the class to see how Modernists have to invent ways of escaping romantic sensibility and trusting in powers of art that do not seem based on the personal presence of the author. We will see that this too has its ironic side. Second, I want to stress recent scholarly arguments about whether there are significant virtually timeless aspects of lyric that persist through these and other historical changes. In order to address this concern we have to find ways to appreciate what makers of art want from their audiences. For me the key to what makers want is their ways of structuring feelings and elaborating relations among sensuous details, which include how poems construct and vary patterns of sound.

There will be several short writing exercises early in the class and then a ten-page term paper as well as mid-term and final exams. Regular attendance will be required.

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