Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, June 1, 2012

How to Read Any Poem Anywhere Syllabus

You asked for it!

Introduction to Poetry: How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere
Professor Timothy Morton (
Assisted by Shane Kraus (
Olson 118, TR 10:30am–11:50am.
Professor Morton's office hours: Voorhies 211, M 9am–10am, W 9am–10am or by appointment.
Shane Kraus's office hours: Voorhies 335, T 12pm–1pm.
Grading: two short papers (45%), one exam (20%), homework and participation (35%). 

What is a poem? Why is reading poetry important? Are there techniques of reading that anyone can learn and apply? In this class we shall study a wide range of poetry with a view to understanding how to read poems. This class will set you up for life, and certainly for the scope of your undergraduate career. Say goodbye to close reading anxiety. This class will sort you out.

2 essays. Four pages, double spaced, 12-point font. NO secondary texts.
Essay 1: Due 2.9. Close reading of ONE short poem or a SMALL part of a longer one (you will be taught how to do this).
Essay 2: Due 3.15. Close reading of ONE short poem or a SMALL part of a longer one (you will be taught how to do this).
You can do as many drafts of Essay 1 as you like. If you hand it in on or before the due date, you can revise it as many times as you like until the final class.
Homework. Homework is set for each class. On the syllabus below, you will find the homework for each particular class at the end of the entry for that class.
·      Homework exercises. 
o   You will be required to write something short.  Bring your answers in for discussion. 
o   You will be called on at random in class and we will check your name off. 
o   You will be called on at random for written work and we will check your name off. 
o   There is a 5% extra credit for homework. Higher points will be given if you hand in your homework on or close to its due date.
Attendance.  Non-attendance must be excused by Doctor's note or religious holiday. 
o   Attendance also means taking care of yourself and others and being aware of your environment in class.
o   Attendance also includes the following: No mobile phones; No eating. 
Reading!  You won't be able to keep up with this class unless you do all of it. 
o   Participation includes reading aloud, speaking mindfully, being aware of others in your environment and being kind to yourself and others. 
o   Identify yourself when you speak!
Final Exam. 2 close readings and terminology. Blue books please.
Students with disabilities: please contact me and every effort will be made to accommodate you.
January 10. Class 1. Rendezvous.

January 12. Class 2. Structure and space.
            Charles Bernstein, “THIS POEM INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK.”
            John Ashbery, from The System.
            e.e. cummings, “spring is like a perhaps hand.”

January 17. Class 3. Structure: lineation and stanza form.
            George Herbert, “Easter Wings.”
            Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric,” from Leaves of Grass.
            Brenda Iijima, “(a brittle day passed by).”
Homework: using two words on one page, arrange them in three different ways. Describe the effects of doing so.

January 19. Class 4. Structure: syntax.
            William Carlos Williams, “This Is Just to Say.”
            William Blake, “The Lamb.”
Homework: write four lines with cool lineation. Write four lines with hot lineation.

January 24. Class 5. Texture: rhythm 1: stresses.
            Jane Taylor, “The Star.”
            William Blake, “The Tyger.”
            Christian Hawkey, “Hour of Secret Agents.”
Homework: write two sentences with cool syntax. Write two sentences with hot syntax.

January 26. Class 6. Texture: rhythm 2: feet.
            Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
            William Wordsworth, “Tintern Abbey.”
            John Clare, “I Am.”

January 31. Class 7. Texture: rhyme 1: end rhyme.
            Shakespeare, Sonnet 116.
            Percy Shelley, “Ozymandias.”
Homework: write two lines with a hot stress pattern. Write two lines with a cool stress pattern.

February 2. Class 8. Texture: rhyme 2: internal rhyme.
            Wilfred Owen, “Anthem for Doomed Youth.”
            Maya Angelou, Inaugural Poem.
Homework: write four lines with hot end rhyme. Write four lines with cool end rhyme.

February 7. Class 9. Perception 1: imagery ON or OFF.
            William Carlos Williams, “This Is Just to Say.”
            D.H. Lawrence, “Bavarian Gentians.”
            T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton 1 (Four Quartets).
Homework: write three lines with hot internal rhyme. Write three lines with cool internal rhyme.

February 9. Class 10. ESSAY 1 DUE.
Perception 2: imagery ON; positive and negative.
John Milton, from Paradise Lost. (2.629–680).
Homework: Write two lines with absent imagery. Write two lines with present imagery.

February 14. Class 11. Perception 3: imagery ON; positive; tropes and figures 1 (brightness).
            John Keats, “On a Grecian Urn.”
            Amiri Baraka, “Something in the Way of Things.”
            Audre Lorde, “Coal.”
Homework: write two lines of positive imagery. Write two lines of negative imagery.

February 16. Class 12. Perception 4: imagery ON; positive; tropes and figures 2 (contrast).
            Gerard Manley Hopkins, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.”
            Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro.”
Homework: write two lines containing metaphor. Write two lines containing metonymy.

February 21. Class 13. Narrators 1: Point of view. Grand march past of the genres.
            William Blake, “A Poison Tree.”
            Dorothy Parker, “Résumé.”
Homework: write two lines containing hot imagery. Write two lines containing cool imagery.

February 23. Class 14. Narrators 2: Subject position.
            William Blake, “The Clod and the Pebble.”
            Homework: write an epigram.

February 28. Class 15. Narrative 1: plot and story.
            John Milton, from Paradise Lost (1.1–125).
            Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Homework: write a four-line poem that forces the reader to read it from the subject position of a stupid but very rich playboy.

March 1. Class 16. Narrative 2: frequency and duration; beginning, middle, and end.
            Homer, The Iliad (book 1).
            Christian Rossetti, Goblin Market.
Homework: Write a four-line story with strong aperture. Write a four-line story with strong closure.

March 6. Class 17. Advanced poetics 1.
            William Wordsworth, from The Ruined Cottage (first two verse paragraphs).
            Percy Shelley, from Alastor (first two verse paragraphs).
            Homework: Write a six-line story with strong development.

March 8. Class 18. Advanced poetics 2.
            T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land (part 2).
            Brenda Hillman, from Cascadia (first page).
            Homework: Write a sonnet.

March 13. Class 19. Advanced poetics 3.
            John Ashbery, “Clepsydra.”
            Homework: Write an ode.

March 15. Class 20. ESSAY 2 DUE.
Revision class.

March 22. FINAL EXAM. 10.30am–12.30pm. Blue books please.

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