Works representing the principal literary genres.
Poetry is often regarded as the most demanding of all literary genres — the loftiest and most profound, the hardest to write, the most difficult to study. Thanks to this challenging reputation, even English Majors are unlikely to read poetry for their own entertainment. In fact, many people pretend to respect poetry while actually striving to avoid it. Others dismiss it as boring when in fact they are probably a bit afraid of it (though perhaps reluctant to admit that fear).
If poetry is indeed the most demanding of literary genres, then avoidance, frustration, and fear are entirely reasonable responses — just as they would be in any demanding situation. Maybe we should just acknowledge that upfront. Poetry can be difficult, and difficult can be scary; some anxiety is baked into the experience. Our task this term will not be to permanently dispel the difficulty around poetry, then, so much as to re-discover poetry as a source of pleasure and wisdom while acknowledging that difficulty is part of the deal.
But why is poetry often difficult? That’s a question that the entire course will strive to address. But one quick answer is that poetry asks us to pay a kind of attention to language that we are not used to paying — a kind of attention that we could not always pay, actually, even if we wanted to (because it would be too much, exhausting, madness even, to always pay the kind of attention that certain poems demand).
So, together, we will learn about the special attention to language that poetry demands — through the use of rhythm, sound, diction, syntax, and the creative application of metaphor — even as we place the achievement of some key poets of the last one hundred years into their social context. Our final purpose will be no higher than becoming more literate; the value of the experience will be no less significant for being unquantifiable.
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.