Critical interpretation and meaning in poems, representing a variety of types and periods.
This course will take as its starting point Romantic theories of poetry, which represented a major break in ideas of how poetry and the poet functioned. Prior to the Romantic period, the notion of a poem as a representation of an authentic authorial voice was unthinkable, yet after this period, the intrusion of the poet into the poem was in many ways taken for granted. This course posits that, despite further changes to the idea of poetry that took place among the Modernists and Post-Modernists, the idea of readership as a site of connection with the poet’s authentic self remains largely unchanged. In other words, we all remain post-Romantic readers of poetry. Our goal will be to challenge this method of reading by exploring other ways of understanding the poetic voice.
This is an introductory course, and no prior familiarity with poetry is required or expected. Contemporary readers with little exposure to poetry may find it off-putting, but for hundreds of years, poetry was considered simultaneously the apex of the literary form and fit entertainment for the uneducated. We will learn both how to read a poem as 21st-century readers, and how to read a poem in the literary context in which it was written. Our readings will be drawn primarily from Romantic and Victorian works, with some excursions into the interwar and pre-Romantic poets. Assignments will include close readings of a single poem, a longer analysis of one or more poems, and creation of an ongoing, annotated digital edition.
English majors: This course will count toward the pre-1900 requirement.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading