Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
english masthead
english masthead
Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 314L • Reading Poetry

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34520 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
PAR 303
Myklebust, N

Course Description

Poetry is a subtle art. In this class we will acquire the skills necessary to read poetry in all its nuance and wit, learning how to analyze the rhetorical figures, rhythmic patterns, and verse forms that often constitute the most delicate and delightful part of its practice; the historical contexts that inevitably shape both its creation and its reception; and the cultural values that allow us to engage its works and occasionally prevent us from making total contact with them.

The course consists of three units. In the first, we will introduce ourselves to the forms, figures, and rhythms of poetry, exploring such rhetorical devices as metaphor and simile and such traditional forms as the sonnet, the ode, and the epigram; then we will listen to and learn to read its rhythms. In the second unit, using such poets as Milton, Wordsworth, and Wilfred Owen, we will explore how poetry at different historical moments appropriates and responds to the political, economic, and social events around it. In the third unit, we will turn our attention to free verse, focusing on twentieth century experiments that test the rhetorical and rhythmic boundaries we established in the first two units. In particular, we will discuss how such experiments reflect our cultural assumptions about race, gender, or class, sometimes reinforcing and often questioning the meaning and stability of those categories.

The purpose of the three units is to teach us about the different methods readers use to understand and analyze poetry. While we will divide our time among formal, historical, and cultural approaches, our focus will always be the poem in front of us. History and culture play an important part in determining how a poem works and what it means, and the materials of verse limit what a poem can and cannot do. After carefully considering each of these dimensions, we will be better prepared to confront an art that deliberately confounds us--and, most important of all, enjoy its ambiguities.

Grading Policy

Three 4-6-page analysis of a poem: 60%, 5 original poems: 30%, Weekly blog posts: 10%


Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, Paul Fussell
A course packet containing all poems and assorted critical essays


bottom border