English R1A

Reading and Composition: Poetry as Philosophical Genre

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2021 Serrano, Joseph
MWF 8-9 233 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

All readings, which will be available on bCourses, will be posted soon.


Can we read a poem as a work of philosophy? As the philosopher Pierre-François Moreau has suggested, when reading philosophical works, it is all too easy to succumb to the idea that all genres and styles are nothing more than the unessential or superfluous exterior of a properly philosophical content. To read a philosophical text in this way very often means extracting the philosophical kernel from its unphilosophical shell. But, Moreau argues, we need to appreciate the fact that the “style of philosophical expression is, on the contrary, essential to what it expresses, and there can be systematic reasons for choosing such-and-such a form of exposition for a system.” We will begin by following Moreau’s observations and explore the following questions: what does it mean to read poetry as philosophy? How does this form of knowledge differ from that of other philosophical genres, such as the Platonic dialogue or Lockean essay? What type (or genre) of truth does poetry yield? How does it think? How and what does it know?


The aim of this course is to attend to what we will call the materiality of philosophical writing. What is unique or singular about each work? In addition to developing the ability to be generous, perceptive, and active readers, students will nurture their own writing practices by producing essays throughout the course. We will also experiment with writing in other (philosophical) genres.

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