Course Description | Course Calendar

Texts and Bulkpack | Course Requirements

Graded Work | Computer Information

Office Hours and Other Information


Professor: Michael Gamer
WATU Tutor: Katy Milligan
Class meets: Tues-Thurs, 3:00-4:30 pm
Office and Phone: 203 Bennett Hall, (215) 898-7346
Office Hours: Tuesday 4:30-6:30, and Wed. by appt.
Katy Milligan's Office and Phone: TBA
Katy Milligan's Office Hours: TBA

TEXTS: Available at Penn Book Center, 3726 Walnut, ph:222-7600.

BULKPACK: At Wharton Reprographics:

Contains poems by Coleridge, Finch, Gray, Goldsmith, Keats, Montagu, Pope, Robinson, Shelley, Smith, Swift, and Wordsworth.


Back in the early nineteenth century, the famous reviewer and critic Francis Jeffrey wrote in The Edinburgh Review that there were "not thirty [poets] whose works are to be found in the hands of ordinary readers--in the shops of ordinary booksellers--or in the press for republication" (Contributions to the Edinburgh Review 289). At that time, Jeffrey joked about wanting to stop the production of the poets and the presses, if only for a decade, so that he could direct his readers to the vast amount of good British poetry, either neglected or forgotten, that he did not want to see die. Therefore, in this course, we will do our best to do the impossible: sample British poetry from 1710 to 1968 in our own Grand Tour that hopefully will achieve an understanding even about the authors that we will not have time to read. We will do so by looking into a tradition of poetry--that of landscape--that will allow us to construct a more cohesive trajectory of British poetry by seeing how present poet revise and transform their predecessors in order to present their own ways of seeing. Understanding the various topographies of British poetry, furthermore, will allow us to examine how it constructs psychological and political landscapes as well.


NOTE: The first 2 paragraphs must be handed in on the given due date. The 3rd may be handed in at any time before Halloween. The 4th one may be handed in at any time during the month of November. All must be given to me in class and on the day we are reading the text you wish to discuss.

Sept 5: Opening Day of course. "Ozymandius" and "England in 1819"

Sept 10: What Spaces Do Authors Construct for Themselves?: Read Aloud all of the poems in the bulkpack by Anne Finch, Countess of Winchelsea, and read the following two poems TWICE: Anne Finch, "The Introduction," "The Apology." For Discussion (read these very very closely): Anne Finch, "On Myself" and "The Bird in the Arras". Question: Students often feel compelled simply to read Finch as the bird in the arras. To what extent do the other three poems for today support this?

Sept 12: How Does Creativity Work? Read Aloud: please read through all of the poems of Anne Finch, Countess of Winchelsea again, aloud and slowly. For Discussion: "A Nocturnal Reverie," and "The Nightingale." Question #1: Do you find these poems more interesting to read as transcriptions of actual moments of inspiration, or as re-stagings (re-presentations) of such moments? Question #2: We saw in "England in 1819" how Shelley uses the list of details as a kind of argumentation; do the first 2/3 of "Nocturnal Reverie" work this way? What is the function of these lines?

Sept 17: Topography and Caricature, or Locating Satire in Degree and in the Detail. Read Aloud: Please read the extract from Homer in the coursepack and Pope's translation of the same passage, and Thomas Gray, "Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes." For Discussion: Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock. PARAGRAPH DUE A-G.

Sept 19: Landscapes of Sexual Obsession. For Discussion: Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard. PARAGRAPH DUE H-P.

Sept 24: London High Life, 1700-1750: Two Views. Read Aloud: read all of the poems in the bulkpack by Jonathan Swift and by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. For Discussion: "The Lady's Dressing Room" and, from Montagu's Town Ecologues, "Saturday: The Smallpox." PARAGRAPH DUE Q-Z.

Sept 26: Ruins, Monuments, and the Land of the Dead. Read Aloud: Read all the poems in the bulkpack by Thomas Gray. For Discussion: "Ode to Spring," "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College," and "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." PARAGRAPH DUE A-G.

Oct 1: Landscapes of Economic Change I. Read Aloud: Reread "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." For Discussion: Oliver Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village." PARAGRAPH DUE H-P.

Oct 3: Hauntings and the Invention of Solitude. Read Aloud: Please read the sonnets by Charlotte Smith in the coursepack. For Discussion: Sonnets of your choice, and William Wordsworth, "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey." PARAGRAPH DUE Q-Z.


Oct 8: Hauntings II: How Did the 18th Century Imagine Psychology to Work? Read: Stuart Curran, Mary Robinson's Lyrical Tales in Context." Read Aloud: Read all the selections from Mary Robinson in the bulkpack. For Discussion: Joanna Baillie, "Night Scenes of Other Times" (1790); Mary Robinson, "The Haunted Beach."

Oct 10: Hauntings III: More Solitude and More Guilt. For Discussion: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and William Wordsworth, "Nutting." NOTE: You may want to check out the version of the "Ancient Mariner" that Gustav Dore illustrated. Just look on the library catalog using a keyword search under "k=coleridge and dore".


Oct 17: The Conversation Poem 1: please read these aloud; they are meant to be spoken, Reading: ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE on Michel Foucault, "Panopticism" (in coursepack). Read also Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Nightingale." For Discussion: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "This Lime Tree Bower My Prison," and "Frost at Midnight".

Oct 22: Landscape and History. ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE on Marlon Ross, "Naturalizing Gender: Woman's Place in Wordsworth's Ideological Landscape." Read Aloud: William Wordsworth, "Animal Tranquility and Decay: A Sketch" and "Old Man Travelling." For Discussion: William Wordsworth, "Lucy Grey," "Strange Fits of Passion," "A Slumber," "There Was a Boy," "Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower."

Oct 24: Creativity and Cognition. Read Aloud: Please finish read through William Wordsworth, Favorite Poems. For Discussion: ; Percy Shelley, "Mont Blanc" (all in bulkpack).


Oct 29: Landscapes of Creativity and Desire II. ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE: Please read P. M. S. Dawson, "Poetry in an Age of Revolution." Read Aloud: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Aeolian Harp," and John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn." For Discussion: Percy Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind, and John Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale"

Oct 31: Landscapes of Creativity and Desire III. For Discussion: John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes; John Keats, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci; and "To Fanny" (in the bulkpack).

Nov 5: Read: Raymond Williams, "Introduction" to John Clare: Selected Poetry and Prose. We will spend two class periods on Clare. Per class, we will discuss two or three poems in depth. I strongly recommend, however, that you simply read the Selected Poems cover to cover, dipping in as you wish, and moving on if a poem does not please you. Raymond Williams is perhaps the most important materialist critic working in England in the last 40 years; his introduction is excellent. The edition is littered with short prose passages (in 'quotations marks' in the table of contents) written by Clare that are very entertaining as well, and will give you a huge amount of insight into this fascinating poet. For Discussion: "The Mores," "The Lament of Swordy Well" and "Remembrances." ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE ON THE WILLIAMS INTRODUCTION

Nov 7: For Discussion: Clare cluster #2: "The Thrushes Nest," "The Pettichaps Nest," "The Mouse's Nest," "The Badger," "The Fox." All of these poems are superb, and to an extent speak to one another. If you think that you want to write a paper on Clare's work, I strongly advise that you read through all of the nest poems. They are short, and fascinating. Long Paper Deadline #1: You must meet with me to discuss what you will be doing your long essay on or by this date.

Nov 12: Read Aloud: Please read through Christina Rossetti, Selected Poems and come to class prepared to tell me which poems you want to read for Tuesday. For Discussion: Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market.

Nov 14: For Discussion: Poems from Christina Rossetti, Selected Poems, chosen by the class.

Nov 19: Read Aloud: Read through the first section of poems in the Thomas Hardy, Poems. I will tell you on November 14 and on the listserver which poems we will be discussing. These are wonderful, wonderful poems, and so if you have any individual poems you wish to discuss, then please suggest them!

Nov 21: Read Aloud: Read through the second section of poems by Hardy. We will again do the same thing regarding selecting poems for discussion.

Nov 26: Read Aloud: ARTICLE SUMMARY DUE on Leonard Scigaj, "Erecting a Here: The Hawk in the Rain and Lupercal." Begin reading Ted Hughes, Lupercal (1962). I have saved this book for last because, as poetry, it tends to blow people's heads off--strong stuff tends to be needed for the end of the semester. I will let you know, based on what the class's interests have been, what poems we will do for discussion.


Nov 28: THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY. Finish Lupercal--you'll find it a nice antidote to writing papers.

Dec 3: Read Aloud: Finish reading Lupercal (1962).

Dec 5: Final Day of Class. Evaluations, Final Exam information, Bad Cookies, and Worse Punch.




You are required to have an electronic mail account:

I do not require you to use the world wide web, or any of the internet, but an electronic mail account--and checking it at least a couple of times a week--is required. Until you send an electronic mail message to me, I WILL NOT CONSIDER YOU REGISTERED FOR THE CLASS, and I will drop those of you on the course lists who do not get electronic mail accounts. I do this because I will use electronic mail as my chief way of making course announcements, sending out reminders, and communicating with you.

Also, this course will have an electronic mailing list (known as a listserver) that will have all of our names on it. If you send a message to gamer40@dept.english.upenn.edu, your message will go to everyone in the class. This way, you will be able to do many things: 1) conduct discussions outside of class, 2) ask for information on what we did in class if you miss a meeting, 3) test paper ideas out on each other, 4) brainstorm regarding the final exam, etc. On the first day of class, I will, as part of our first assignment, get those of you who know about e-mail to take twenty minutes to teach those of you who don't know about e-mail how to use it. KATY AND I ARE MORE THAN WILLING TO SET UP GROUP APPOINTMENTS WITH YOU IN ORDER TO TEACH YOU HOW TO USE THIS TECHNOLOGY--so if you feel lost, you simply need to say so.


PLEASE SHOW UP ON TIME OR EVEN EARLY. Regarding Absences: since I know that disasters happen unexpectedly during the semester, I allow you two absences. Therefore, please do not explain to me why you miss class unless it involves a major illness that you can document. In other words, there's no such thing in this class as an "excused" absence. I don't want to know why you miss class; these two absences are your business. Missing more than two classes is equally your business, but it will significantly lower your grade, since it will inhibit your ability to contribute significantly to our discussions. You should count on 3-4 absences lowering your grade by 1/3 (B to B-, for example), 5-6 by 2/3 (B to C+), 7-8 by one full grade (B to C), etc. More than 10 will constitute failing the course.


This class will conduct itself as a discussion rather than a lecture. I say this now because I do not want anyone taking this class to expect it to be a lecture class. I do sometimes lecture for 5-15 minute stretches, but the bulk of our time will be spent in real discussion, and the topics of our discussion will be determined as much by your intellectual interests as by my own. This means that you should expect class periods to be intense and often fun--a place to test out your own ideas about what we're reading. You can expect me to come in every class with 50 minutes of my own agenda planned; in turn, I will expect the 25 of you to have at least 25 minutes of questions, observations, and discoveries about the reading. Students who do not participate in our discussions will most likely see their final grade go down; the four or five students who end up carrying much of the burden of discussion will probably see their hard work reflected in their grade as well.

IF YOU ARE SHY, HERE'S WHAT TO DO: Simply bring in one question that you want to ask the rest of us AND ASK IT--and you should, when possible, choose interpretive questions ("I don't understand how these two passages can be part of the same poem") rather than factual questions ("When did Robinson write this?") In particular, I urge you to pay special attention to those points where you don't understand something in the reading--where you've tried to find out the answer for yourself and failed--because they are the most important for the class.

Late Work and Extensions:

During the semester, I DO NOT ACCEPT LATE WORK. If you do not make a deadline, it does not directly affect your grade; you simply lose that opportunity for me to read your work and provide you with feedback. For example, if you miss the second paper deadline, you simply lose that opportunity for me to read your work and help you with feedback. I do this because I do not want anything to do with the hassles of students asking for extensions, bringing excuses, etc. I will only read each paper you write once before the portfolio. However, I am happy to discuss work in progress with you during my office hours or by appointment; and will be very happy to talk with you about an essay that I've commented upon. It is a good idea to bring in a draft with specific questions about it. It is much more instructive to discuss specific questions and writing problems in a draft than general, abstract questions concerning your writing.

Reading and Writing Assignments:

As this course is a core course, I am assuming that you have little or no experience in reading poetry. Consequently, the reading load for this course is relatively light (usually around 4 hours per week), and the writing load for this course is relatively heavy (several one-paragraph article summaries, four short one-paragraph discussion "instigators," five listserv responses, two short essays, and a longer essay with an annotated bibliography attached to it). Instructions concerning all of these assignments are below. Work that is graded during the semester is included under "Graded Work for This Course."

The Three Essays: During the semester, you'll hand in three essays 750-1750 words long. At the end of the semester, you'll hand in two of these essays revised in a portfolio that I will evaluate. So, during the semester, I will read and respond to the essays you hand in to me, and, by the second one, explain to you what kind of grade it would receive were it to be handed in at the end of the semester in the portfolio. In other words, the essays you hand in during the semester give you the opportunity to test ideas and take chances without being penalized for it.


Your grade will be determined by three components: the quality of your in-class performance (including the article summaries, the paragraphs, and the listserver responses, 25% of your grade), your performance on the final exam 25% of your grade), and the quality of the portfolio of work that you hand in at the end of the semester (50% of grade). These various assignments are listed and described below:

1) The Four "Instigator" Paragraphs (10% of grade). These should be no more than 150 words, i.e. 1/2 a page single spaced. Four times during the semester, I will ask you to write a paragraph that is intended to instigate discussion. I will grade these based on their ability to instigate discussion. The way these will work is that you will bring your "instigator" into class on that day. On any given day, we will likely have 7-8 students bringing in these paragraphs and reading them aloud. These paragraphs should be straight to the point, without introductory material, and in your speaking ("I") voice. You should see these paragraphs as significant opportunities for you to determine the agenda of the class. THEREFORE, YOUR PARAGRAPHS SHOULD BE ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON IN THE CLASS PERIOD, AND WHY. The paragraph should be in your speaking voice and i) point us to a specific part of a specific poem (at most two passages), ii) challenge us by asking a question or by proposing an idea for discussion, iii) make clear what you want to accomplish by discussing this--what will we be able to figure out if we approach the text for discussion in your way? PLEASE DESIGN THESE TO BE SPOKEN ALOUD. I will grade them less on the quality of the prose than on the basis of how well they spur discussion--in other words, on their intellectual intensity, clarity, and curiosity.

2) Five responses on the class listserver (10% of grade--at least 150 words in length): In the first eleven weeks of the semester, I will ask you to participate in the discussion we have on the class listserver (send all messages to gamer40@dept.english.upenn.edu). You may write in when you have something you want to contribute, propose, respond to, etc., and may do so any time over the semester BEFORE THANKSGIVING. You may participate as much as you wish--and those who "carry" the discussion do get A's and A+'s for this part of the course--but I require that you make at least five entries. PLEASE DO NOT CRAM IN ALL OF YOUR ENTRIES INTO THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF NOVEMBER, SINCE IT DEFEATS THE PURPOSE OF HAVING ON-LINE DISCUSSION GROUPS, AND SINCE IT WILL LOWER YOUR GRADE ON THIS REQUIREMENT. At the end of the semester, I will read through all of the listserv activity and evaluate your level of engagement, and it will count as 10% of your final grade.

3) Five Article Summaries (5% of grade): I intentionally have chosen some of the most important critics of the last 25 years when I chose the articles we will read for the course. Consequently, in many ways they are the most important aspect of the course, in that they will familiarize you with reading literary criticism, and with the kinds of issues that lately have dominated scholarly work on British Poetry. As a way of insuring that you read these articles closely, I have assigned throughout the semester a number of one-page summaries of the articles we read for the class. I will simply read through these and check them off so long as your summary convinces me that you have read the article. Doing all of these on time is, again, an easy way to get a quick "A" in the part of the course.

4) The Final Exam (25% of grade). This will be split between an identification section, a short answer section, and an essay question. It will be open book and open note. The best way to study for this exam is to have read, by the end of the semester, each of the poems for discussion several times, and to have marked in your books and bulkpack every passage that comes up in class. These will be the ones that appear on the final.

5) The Portfolio (50% of grade). This should represent the your best work of the semester, and should really be the best, most finished, immaculate work you can do. Each portfolio will contain the following items:


This assignment requires you to use the MLA bibliography, which is available either in book form in the library, or on-line via the English Web Page or on any of the Pennline terminals in the library. The best way to reach it is to go to the library or via modem get to the library's web page. Select "Pennlin," and then select "MLA." You'll be asked to enter you social security number, etc. The directions are simple, but read them. When searching, you should try lots of different combinations--don't just look up an individual poem. If you have an hour, the best way to do this is to look up an author and just slog through all the entries. It will take less time than you think.

You have two options:

i) Report on two scholarly articles written any time after 1980. I do this because critical writing has changed drastically in the last 15 years, and I want you to read current thinking on our poets. Your choices may take the form of articles published in scholarly journals, or ones published in books of essays (again, after 1980). Both of these articles should relate to your essay in obvious ways. They do not necessarily have to be on the same texts; if not, however, their relevance should be very very clear to everyone concerned.

ii) Report on one scholarly article written after 1980 and one source-text--i.e., written around the same time that your prospective poet(s) wrote. For example, if you were writing an essay on Mary Robinson, you might want to read her racy Memoirs of Mrs. Robinson (1800) as one of your texts, and choose an essay by Judith Pascoe. If you were writing on Percy Shelley, you might want to read Edmund Burke's short A Philosophical Inquiry into Our Notions of the Sublime and Beautiful (1758), or William Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800, 1802), and then choose an appropriate article to go with it. If you were writing about Ted Hughes, you might want to read early reviews of his work in England and America, or perhaps even the most famous book of poems (Ariel [1965]) written by his even more famous ex-wife, Sylvia Plath, since she wrote them during their marriage and separation.

Each Annotated Bibliography Should Contain (Please note the minimum word lengths):

1. For each article, a 150-word (or more) summary of the article's argument. This is simply a tool for both of us--for you to make sure you understand the article, and for me in case I haven't read it. The two essays are the real guts of this assignment.

2. For each article, a 600-word (or more) essay on the article's relation to your own essay and, more generally, its role in shaping or challenging your thinking during the semester. It should include an explanation and discussion of why you have chosen the article as one worth writing on. This means that you should think as hard as you can about not only what interested you about it, but also, more importantly, how it has informed your work. Make sure that you focus on specific aspects of the article's argument when they have contributed to the growth of your own ideas.

3. Because this is a more exploratory kind of essay, I advise you to speak in the first person ("I) when you write, and to think of this as a kind of intellectual memoir of the growth of your own argument. You may want to keep a kind of essay-diary while you are working on the long essay, since this would provide excellent raw material for these essays.

4. NOTE: Those of you choosing option (ii) above should follow the same directions.

5. NOTE: In general (though not always), the truly outstanding (A- or A) essays run 800-1000 words each.

The best way to go about this assignment step-by-step: 1) Begin to formulate an argument for your long paper, 2) hop on Franklin and on the MLA Bibliography and look under your text or author 3) select 3-4 articles that look like they will be pertinent to you essay as well as interesting; 4) read through them; 5) select two of them, and read them closely, examining the texts in question as you read the article; 6) write up the summaries of each article; 7) write your long essay, 8) write the essays about why you chose the articles in question, stressing how these articles inform the argument you've made in your essay. Examples of Annotated Bibliographies are available via my homepage. Just select the link entitled "Course Materials," and look for it on the list of handouts.