Poetry and Poetics: An Introduction
What is poetry and what is it good for? These questions have long haunted practitioners and readers of this “beautiful and pointless” art, to quote the contemporary critic David Orr. But “beautiful and pointless” were not always the terms of the debate. On the contrary, these questions about what poetry is and what it does mean something profoundly different in our contemporary moment than they meant in centuries past. Nor is this sense of the “pointless,” noncommodifiable nature of poetry, often framed as a positive quality, universally accepted across different verse cultures. This course asks how we can understand questions about definitions and uses of poetry as historically specific, especially when we concentrate on particular forms of reading and writing poetry.
In this class, an introduction to poetry, poetics, and prosody (the sonic and rhythmic elements of any given poetic system), we’ll develop a lexicon for talking about how poems work as well as inquiring about the affordances of specific verse forms and devices. Objects of study may include meter, sonnets, Provençal forms, abecedarians, elegies, ballad form, dramatic monologues, free verse, ghazals, apostrophe, prosopopoeia, and vexed terms like lyric and epic. Poems on the syllabus—accompanied by excerpts from defenses of poetry, prosody manuals, critical interpretations, and theories of form—will range from the hypercanonical to the hypercontemporary—from Shakespeare and Dickinson to Harryette Mullen and Monica Youn.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 19 — December 17, 2020
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Thursday, November 26th.