RICHARD L. W. CLARKE


 

 

 

ADVICE RE: POETRY COURSES

Required Readings: the required readings listed are primary sources, drawn principally from the Norton Anthology of Poetry (henceforth NAP), that must be prepared (preferably in the suggested order) ahead of class.  It is in your interest to read all the poems by a given poet to be found in your anthology but you should concentrate in particular upon those poems listed as required.  Given that our contact time is limited to three hours per week, it will almost certainly be impossible in most cases to cover each and every one of the readings listed for each poet in class-time.  However, the responsibility to read on your own those that we do not get to cover in class is yours.

If you do not own a copy of the required text, you may wish to photocopy the relevant selections.  Any poems listed as Required Readings but not found in NAP should be photocopied from other sources. 

You may also find listed here related philosophical and theoretical essays (e.g. "An Apology for Poetry" or "Tradition and the Individual Talent") by the poets in question (e.g. Sidney or Eliot) and others which are useful for the light which they shed on the poems.  

Recommended Readings: the recommended readings listed are secondary sources and are designed to explicate and to provide necessary background and clarification on the poetry covered each week.  These are works of criticism applied to the primary sources.  It is entirely up to you whether you choose to read them or not.  You may find them especially useful, however, when it comes to assimilating the material covered in the lectures, writing term papers and/or preparing for the exam.

Interpreting Poetry: Most of us today do not read poetry for pleasure, perhaps because we are usually not encouraged to read or like poetry very much.  Some people even come to develop mental blocks where understanding poetry is concerned, having wrongly convinced themselves that poetry is not as easy to read as prose.  It is true that poetry is not always easy but neither is it incomprehensible.  In fact, most persons who claim not to grasp the meaning of poetry are often forced to admit when pressed that they simply have not paid attention to the words in front of them. 

Perhaps the best way to grasp difficult poetry is to make a detailled précis or paraphrase of each poem for oneself.  However, in so doing, do not overlook the poet’s technique (the poem’s form), a close appreciation of which may alter your understanding of the content (or themes) of the poem.  There is, in short, no substitute for careful preparation of the Required Readings ahead of each lecture.

Lectures (Level II): the two lectures each week are devoted to carefully explicating the poems listed as Required Readings for each poet and to analysing them in relation to the life of the poet and, by extension, the socio-historical context in which s/he lived.

Tutorials (Level II): the one tutorial hour each week is designed to allow you to assimilate the material covered in the lectures and to perform close textual analyses on specific poems not touched on then.  Where lectures involve you in mostly passive learning, tutorials offer you the opportunity to engage actively with the material delivered in the lectures. What you get out of a tutorial depends on what you as a student put in.

Seminars (Level III): students should note that level III courses normally take the seminar format.  Seminars will be most often devoted, entirely or in part, to carefully explicating by means of a close reading of particular poems the oeuvres of specific poets.  As you get more experience interpreting the poetry of this period and in an effort to avoid merely spoon-feeding you with the requisite information, the burden in this regard will be shifted gradually to you.  At times, I may call upon individuals to answer specific seminar questions and make presentations.  In this case, careful preparation ahead of time will be indispensable and the result will be active rather than merely passive forms of learning.  Sometimes, too, seminars may be devoted to specific criticisms written on the poetry of particular poets.  

All in all, the degree to which seminars are productive is a function of the effort which students put into their preparation of assigned materials and the effectiveness of the presentations and reports made to their colleagues.  Students must also be prepared to engage in class in a vigorous but respectful exchange of ideas with their colleagues.  It is, in short, through a combination of careful preparation and dialogue that students will be encouraged to glean for themselves the important information to be drawn from the assigned readings.  

Key Literary Terms: By the end of the course, students ought to be to be familiar with, able to define and to use the following key literary terms (see M. H. Abrams’s Glossary of Literary Terms):

Allegory; Alliteration; Allusion; Ballad; Blank Verse; Content; Dramatic Monologue; Diction; Elegy; Epic; Epiphany; Figurative language; Form; Free Verse; Genre; Imagery; Irony; Lyric; Metaphor; Metonymy; Metre; Ode; Onomatopoeia; Paradox; Pastoral; Persona; Realism; Rhyme; Satire; Sonnet; Stanza; Symbolism; Technique; Theme; Tone; Voice.

Final Exam: given that the term paper tests material covered in Module One, you should note that the final exam will test only the material covered in the remaining Module(s).  For a sense of the type of questions which you may be asked in the exam, please consult the copies of past exam papers to be found in the library.  You should also note that whatever may be the final mark, departmental regulations decree that students must pass at least one question in the final exam in order to pass any course in Literatures in English.
 

This site was last updated: February 03, 2011

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