At first this course will seem to be a course about poetry, but it is in truth a course about reading. Poetry will be our first vehicle for this learning, and we will spend ten weeks looking at poems and thinking about ways to read them. We will discuss meter and rhyme; we will learn how to scan a poem; we will articulate differences in tone or color produced by enjambment, caesura, verse form, subject, history. Following the mid term, we will read a short story, a novel, and a film in order to extend, via metaphor or translation, the reading of poetry to other things: we will move from “reading poetry” to simply “reading”—the work of the profession of English literature, the basic building block of all literary analysis. We thus begin by reading and end by reading, and reading will—if we let it—make us, and make us readers.
Learning will require you to do three different kinds of work. First I expect you to do the reading, and to do it well—when you read for class I expect you to arrive having not simply scanned the material but having thought about it. You should come to class EVERY TIME with at least one question or comment about the text—if I call on you I will expect you to be ready to articulate that question or comment. Secondly, I am asking you to write four short papers—two on the poetry, one each on the other subjects of the course—that address some significant critical question or analyze a text in detail. Finally, there will be a two-day-long in-class midterm exam and a final exam, both of which will include short answer questions, quotation identifications, and short and long essays. I will also ask you to memorize and recite a poem in front of the class—this assignment will not be graded but is required to pass the class. Before you recite your poem, I’ll ask you to say a few words about the poet whose work you’ll read.
Download the Course Syllabus