Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Poet's Bible

ENGL 200.304
TR 9-10:30 am

The Bible is probably the most important influence on English literature. In this section of the Junior Research Seminar students will gain familiarity with this foundational text by reading sections of the Bible, studying both early and contemporary poetic treatments of biblical material, and conducting original research. We will read poetry by a wide range of poets, including Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Jacqueline Osherow, T. S. Eliot, Mary Szybist, George Herbert, and longtime editor of Poetry Magazine Christian Wiman. How did these poets adapt the biblical story to their own historical moments? What elements of biblical imagery and language proved fruitful for their poetry? In what ways did translations of the Bible into English influence the literary culture in which the work of these poets was written and received? In addition to reading creative adaptations of the Bible, students will use their research to produce their own creative writing. The only required text for this class is a King James Version translation of the Bible. All other readings will be made available on Canvas or at the library.


The Junior Research Seminar is designed to involve students in the kinds of research that the discipline of literary studies currently demands, including: working with primary sources and archival materials; reviewing the critical literature; using online databases of historical newspapers, periodicals, and other cultural materials; exploring relevant contexts in literary, linguistic, and cultural history; studying the etymological history and changing meanings of words; experimenting with new methods of computational analysis of texts; and other methodologies. The course typically involves a few main texts that are studied intensively from a variety of approaches. Research exercises throughout the semester will enable and culminate in a final project: either a scholarly essay of 10-15 pages or a creative project. In either case, the final project must emerge out of each student's intensive, independent research agenda.

fulfills requirements