This course is designed for people who are eager to become better readers of poetry, but who may have had little formal experience with the genre. We will begin by reading a wide selection of (mostly) narrative poems by modern and contemporary American writers. At the same time, we will learn reading techniques necessary to understand and enjoy poetry, from the most accessible to the more complex. Later in the semester, we will exercise those techniques in reading some of the major British poets from before 1600 to the early twentieth century. These include Donne, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Browning, Eliot and others. (prospective English majors will find this course a helpful preparation for English 20 and English 40.)
The writing assignments will support the effort of learning to read poetry. They include weekly short papers, occasional in-class writing, and two longer papers at mid-term and at the end. (No final exam.) We will discuss and practice new ways of developing ideas, and of revising those ideas once they are on paper.