“If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry. . .at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied could thus have been kept active through use. The loss of [this taste] is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

Charles Darwin

This course is designed to offer the student a gain of happiness and a nurturing of intellect (can’t promise anything about “moral character”) and to convince the fearful student that even the most difficult poem is accessible. Accordingly, class members will be studying a large and varied body of poetry and will become comfortable using a critical vocabulary in discussions of both the structure and content of individual poems. The final project of the semester will involve a close scrutiny of several poems by one poet. In comparing that poet’s critically acclaimed work with the works that have received lesser praise, the student will be looking at the criteria critics use to judge a poem as “good” or “bad” (or “better” or “worse”). By the end of the semester, the confidence of the students in their ability to interpret poetic structures will have grown considerably. In addition to the selections in the Kennedy text, class members will receive handouts of poetry appearing in contemporary periodicals.

Written Requirements:

  • Three papers, two short (3-5 pages) and one longer (8-10 pages)
  • the occasional in-class essay
  • one midterm
  • and one final examination.

The final, longer paper will require research on a single poet represented within the Kennedy text.

Required Text:

  • Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. An Introduction to Poetry, 13th Edition. Longman 2009.