Lyric poems are short poems that express the thoughts and emotions of a first-person speaker. In this class, students will learn how to read lyric poetry, focusing on the skill literary critics call “close-reading.”
Close-reading is an advanced reading skill and critical-thinking tool that can be applied not only to poetry, but also to other verbal and visual texts. Close-readers are trained to perceive not only what texts say but also how they say it, what they assume, and what they leave unsaid. Every text, and every reading of a text, represents choices. We’ll work together to understand the choices that lie behind the texts we read and the choices we make as we read them.
As you learn to close-read, you will develop intellectual strategies that will help you to become less vulnerable to verbal manipulations in many contexts. You will become more appreciative of verbal dexterity and creativity, and begin to understand what goes into expert and artistic uses of language. Even if you never read another poem after this course (a sad and terrible prospect), the ability to close-read will serve you for the rest of your life.
When we read a poem in this class, we’ll ask key questions: What structural and rhetorical choices lie behind this text? What are readers being asked to assume here? What does this text suggest in addition to what it declares? How does the structure of the poem make suggestions of its own? What does the poem leave unsaid?
Required assignments in this class are designed to give you training in specific skills. As you study lyric poetry from the seventeenth century to the present, you will: 1) learn to paraphrase accurately ; 2) learn to recognize some major English-language lyric forms and purposes; 3) develop transferable close-reading skills 4) practice performing lyric poetry.