Introduction to Poetry Autumn 2012
ENG202 Professor Mead
Class Schedule (Subject to Change)
Please have the appropriate sections of our textbook read, re-read, digested, and annotated before the class meetings.
28 T Introduction
30 R Poems Poets Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology, xxxix-26
4 T PPP, 27-76
6 R PPP, 27-76
11 T PPP, 77-110
13 R PPP, 77-110
18 T Bluebook Exam I
20 R PPP, 111-152
25 T PPP, 111-152
27 R PPP, 153-177
2 T PPP, 153-177
4 R China
9 T China
11 R NO CLASS
16 T Bluebook Exam II
18 R Conference
23 T PPP, 179-212
25 R Recitations
30 T PPP, 213-238
1 R Recitations
6 T PPP, 307-320
8 R Recitations
13 T Bluebook Exam III
15 R PPP, 323-340
20 T PPP, 323-340
22 R NO CLASS
27 T PPP, 341-368
29 R Poetry Readings
4 T Poetry Readings
6 R Evaluations. Poetry Readings
Required Text: Poems, Poets, Poetry: And Introduction & Anthology, ed. Helen Vendler.
3rd Edition, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.
Course Goals: You will have successfully completed this class if, after the class, you become a life-long reader of poetry. Naturally, I cannot grade you on would you might do in the future, but I wanted you to know straight up what the goal is.
Being able to read poetry—and being able to derive pleasure from reading poetry—is a rarer and rarer ability in the twenty-first century. This is so for many reasons, but I will give you two to chew on. Increasingly, the language that is thrust upon us and required of us is first level stuff: summaries, reports, getting to the gist, like/dislike, buy/sell, a certain number of stars, etc. This is language that only denotes the primary, surface meaning of its terms. Second, and without trying to sound like a conspiracy nut, there is greater and greater pressure on people—and especially young people—NOT to think or read critically. You are much easier to control if you do (and think!) what you’re told. To the people who view you only as a consumer, it is better that you purchase language of inconsequential meaning than that you ponder words that might possibly enable you to know who’s trying to determine your life choices.
Conversely, a life filled with poetry is an incalculably richer life than one without poetry. Imagine seeing the world only in black and white, or only in two rather than three dimensions. Imagine a flat-screen world of no depth. That is the world without poetry. Second, to learn how to read a poem is to learn how to read. I mean that literally, because “reading” is not simply decoding letters on a page or screen; reading every word of a book is not reading. Reading is understanding what the words mean, what they mean together, what secondary and tertiary suggestions of meaning crop up, what the contexts of the words are, and how those contexts speak to one another. Not to completely prostitute the Muse to the Market, but being able to read a poem prepares one to read (as in really, really read: to understand what the message is and what the message’s moral standing is) legal documents, blogs, briefs, proposals, books, claims, advertisements, directives, tweets, magazines, directions, warnings, speeches, news clips, brochures, and in short all human communication placed into language.
We will work slowly and carefully through Helen Vendler’s book Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology, Third Edition, skipping over areas that seem to need little re-phrasing and lingering over areas that present difficulties to students. Our main classroom goals are these: to learn how to accept a poem on its own terms; to understand that the relationships between what is written in a poem and how it is written is what the poem means; to learn how to find new things in a poem with each re-reading; to understand that poetry, in its creation and consumption, is vital to democracy and the human spirit.
Attendance: Our class will be run very much as a workshop, requiring each student to arrive at every class prepared and ready to engage in proactive discussion, questioning, and critical conversation. Students who miss more than three class meetings during the semester will have their final grades lowered, usually by one decrement per absence past three. Tardiness will count as an absence. Students who miss excessive class meetings or who are routinely tardy may be asked to withdraw from the course. Please understand that there are no “legitimate” or “illegitimate” absences; if university responsibilities require you to miss more than three class meetings, we can probably work out an extra project to avoid your being penalized simply for being an athlete or whatever.
Students with special needs must contact the instructor as soon as possible, and he will make all reasonable accommodations.
Bluebook Exams: With each exam, you will be given a short poem and asked to examine the poem’s technical dimensions before proposing an interpretation.
Recitations: Each student will memorize a poem, either one from the book or another with permission of the instructor. The poem should be at least twenty lines long. Students who wish to receive a high grade for this requirement (B+, A-, A) will not only memorize the poem, but recite the poem critically, musically, and/or dramatically.
Poetry Readings: Each student will write an original poem that attempts to imitate a certain quality of a poem in the textbook. Do not merely copy a poem’s form, content, vocabulary, or other such surface elements. Instead, try to imitate a poem’s use of syntax, line breaks, alliteration, tone, sound effects, and/or voice. Students will read their poems (they needn’t be memorized) to the class and give a brief explanation of what they were trying to imitate from the original. The poetic value of your work will be less important than the seriousness with which you pursue the technical issues of the original. That is to say, the quality of your reading of the original poem will be more important than the quality of your written imitation.
Office Hours: Students who are interested in excelling in the course will want to meet with other students, librarians, and their instructors outside of class to deepen, gauge, and redirect their work. I encourage you to form study groups that meet, say, once or twice a week for forty-five minutes or an hour; to make appointments with faculty librarians in order to learn more about poets and their poems; to visit the instructor to chat about particular poems or larger issues in the class.
Old Main: Room 312B MWF 10-11, TR 8:30-9:30 AND BY APPOINTMENT.
tel. 438-4336, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may leave me a voice or email message, but I cannot promise to respond before the next class meeting.
Please visit http://stephenxmead.blogspot.com/ for syllabi, handouts, policy statements on plagiarism and attendance, and useful links.
Grading: Exam I 1/6 Final Grade
Exam II 1/6 Final Grade
Exam III 1/6 Final Grade
Recitation 1/6 Final Grade
Poetry Reading 1/6 Final Grade
Participation 1/6 Final Grade
Please check your university email in box regularly, as this is the only way I can contact all of you in case of timely messages, changes in syllabus, or helpful prompts.