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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 379S • Poetry and Performance

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34630 MW
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
RAS 213
Somers-Willet, S

Course Description

As part of our University-directed self-assessment project, the English Department has initiated an ePortfolio program for English majors. You will be asked to submit, in electronic form, two documents--a one page essay on the English major and a copy of your final paper for the seminar. Additionally, you will be asked to complete a brief four question survey. During the semester, you will receive details from your instructor or from the English Department on completing the survey and submitting the documents on your senior seminar's Blackboard website.

From the bards to the beatniks, performance has been an important part of how poets write, read, and are received by public audiences. However, the majority of literary criticism considers poetry as merely a textual entity. Is our experience of a poem ever just textual? How do our understandings of poetry expand when we consider orality and performance as important aspects of a poem? Can we distinguish a poetry "reading" from a "performance"? How are traditional notions of poetry transformed by current aesthetic movements and cultural practices such as hip-hop, spoken word, and poetry slams, and how is such verse informed by politics and commercial interests?

In this course, we'll consider the functions of textuality, orality, and performativity in the work of twentieth-century and contemporary American poets as well as the social and commercial functions of verse in performance. To facilitate our discussion of these issues, we will read essays and poetry by a wide variety of authors, focusing on late twentieth-century and contemporary American poets. Among the traditions we will consider are Beat and jazz poetry, the Black Arts movement, avant-garde performance art, hip-hop, slam poetry, and verse in alternative media (such as film, television, popular music, and the Internet). In exploring what poetry is and does, how poetry reflects and shapes political expression, and how performance and media enable poetry to reach a larger audience, this course ultimately asks students to consider the uses of art in society. Because our discussions will hinge upon a large volume media to be played in-class, regular attendance is mandatory.

Grading Policy

15% Position statement (5-7 pages)
20% Performance and reflection (2-3 pages)
10% Research proposal, with revision (2-3 pages)
20% Annotated bibliography
25% Research paper (10-12 pages)
10% Participation and discussion


Spoken Word Revolution, Ed. Mark Eleveld
Spoken Word Revolution Redux, Ed. Mark Eleveld
Poetry Slam, Ed. Gary Mex Glazner
A course packet of selected readings


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