This course will explore a wide range of canonical and non-canonical poetry, written between the late seventeenth and early twentieth centuries. We can expect to examine or refer to poems by the following authors: Andrew Marvell, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Anne Finch, William Cowper, William Blake, Joanna Southcott, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Emma Roberts, George Gordon Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wilfred Owen, William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Philip Larkin.
Throughout the semester, we will examine the development and naming of difference poetic 'movements' - Neo-classical, Romantic, Victorian, Modern &tc - and address whether the conventions that inform these labels are truly representative. We will also think about the role of the poet and poem in society, exploring the possible reasons why and how the poet's purpose and methods of expression have changed over time -- if indeed they have.
Poems will be approached both through close reading, and consideration of their historical contexts. In close reading, we will examine the significance of and relationship between poetic form and content. We will consider the ways in which meter, rhyme, genre, theme, and language operate in a poem, in order to reveal, disguise, conform to, change, distort or parody the traditions expected of that poem's form and content. As form and content 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 when 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, artistic, political, economic, and religious events and issues of its time. This will introduce such topics as literary production and distribution, painting and sculpture, revolution and warfare, gender, colonialism, industrialization, and religious persecution.