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This seminar closely examines the achievement of two of the most influential poets of the last hundred years: America’s Robert Frost (1874-1963), and Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)–the Nobel laureate widely acknowledged as the greatest Irish poet since Yeats. They have garnered high praise from elite literary critics, and also captured the imaginations of a broad reading public. They write in an idiom that is deeply rooted in the ordinary vernacular speech of their respective countries, but rises above it into a universal language that transcends place and time. Their images first focus our gaze on the natural world we can see all around us, but then subtly shift our attention to what can’t be readily observed or reliably known. Their poems can initially appear simple or self-evident in their meanings, but then quietly double-back on us with unexpected forms of mystery and complexity. To get a comprehensive sense of the arc of their careers, we will read most all of their poems, with each class discussion focusing on a few particularly important texts. We will also read some of their essays and lectures on the art and purpose of poetry. Where appropriate, we will attend to the biographical, cultural, and (especially with Heaney) political circumstances that shaped their opportunities as artists.
Format: seminar; Remotely-taught course
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
Midterm and final papers (15-20 pages in total)
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, or permission of the instructor.
English majors, but non-majors with a strong interest in poetry are also most welcome.
ENGL Literary Histories C