Poetry is a word today often deployed in praise of what is not poetry; meanwhile, poetry itself is largely ignored or disparaged. It is curious, too, that a surprising number of people in the English-speaking world continue to write and appreciate poetry, even as its public role has diminished. What is poetry? What we can say with some certainty is that it is a verbal art form more ancient than the written record. Every human culture has its own poetry that has grown and continues to grow out of particular life forms. A culture’s poetry interacts with the poetries of other cultures and ages, at the same time interacting with ever-transforming contemporary life. In this course we will examine its various modes, genres, forms, styles, techniques, and social functions, in a survey that aims to prompt the larger questions of what poetry, if anything, is, and what we do with it as social beings. While the scope of the course is confined predominantly to poems written in English, it includes a number of translated, ancient poems, in order that we can better appreciate poetry’s making, its social functions, and its historical transformations.
Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.
Lower-division Elective courses allow students to choose (or “elect”) courses or faculty specific to their own developing interests, enabling them thereby to shape their own educational experience. Major II students can also use one lower-division elective to fulfill the Writing Requirement with ENG 209 The Craft of the Sentence.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.