This course will explore a wide range of canonical and non-canonical poetry, written by both men and women, between the late seventeenth and late twentieth centuries. We can expect to examine or refer to poems by the following authors: John Milton, Andrew Marvell, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Mary Montagu, James Thomson, Thomas Gray, William Cowper, John Clare, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wilfred Owen, Rudyard Kipling, William Butler Yeats, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Stevie Smith, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, John Cooper Clarke, John Hegley, Tony Harrison, and Carol Ann Duffy.
Throughout the semester, we will examine the development and naming of different poetic 'movements' - Restoration, Neo-classical, Romantic, Victorian, Modern & etc - and address whether the premises which inform these labels are truly representative. We will also think about the role of the poet and poem in relation to society, exploring, amongst other things, the possible reasons why, and how, the poet's purpose and methods of poetic expression have changed over time, if indeed they have.
Poems will be approached via close-reading, their wider historical contexts, and the poet's biography. In close-reading, we will examine the significance of and relationship between poetic form, content and genre. This involves thinking about the ways in which poetic 'vehicles' - rhythm, rhyme, themes, and language - operate in relation to the traditions of the genre adopted by the poet. As form, content and genre play such a large part in directing a poem's meaning and reception, a close consideration of them is vital when assessing whether a poet has fulfilled or thwarted any intentions that he may have had on writing the poem.
Where the historical aspect is concerned, attention will be paid to the general and specific ways in which a poem is shaped by - and, in turn, shapes - the literary, political, economic, religious, and artistic events and issues of its time. This will introduce such topics as literary production and distribution, revolution and warfare, gender, colonialism, industrialization, religious persecution, painting and sculpture.
Requirements and grade distribution are as follows: Regular attendance, 10%; class participation, including group work, 20%; individual presentations, 10%; 2 essays (6-8 pages each), 15% each; mid term exam, 15%; final exam, 15%.