The Art of Poetry: The History and Theory of Lyric
Division I; Writing-Intensive;
“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?” This excerpt from a letter by Emily Dickinson indicates both the particular pleasures of reading poetry, and also the persistent difficulty of defining poetry as a genre. In this course, we will train our focus on lyric poetry in particular, tracing its long history as well as trends in the theory of lyric. We’ll begin by uncovering the roots of lyric in both the Greek tradition and in Anglo-Saxon riddles and spells, and will then consider several key moments in the development of lyric poetry in English, from the Renaissance to the present. We’ll read closely the work of such poets as Wyatt, Donne, Blake, Keats, Hopkins, Dickinson, Yeats, Stevens, Hughes, Bishop, Ashbery, and Plath before turning to the contemporary scene. Along the way, we’ll examine the trends in criticism responsible for the conflation of lyric and poetry in our time, and will get a strong sense of the current state of lyric theory.
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: frequent short writing assignments totaling 20 pages, in-class presentation, thoughtful participation in discussions
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preference: first- and second-year students, and English majors who have yet to take a Gateway course
Distributions: Division I; Writing-Intensive;
Distribution Notes: WI: Writing-intensive courses require a minimum of 20 pages of writing.
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses;