William Blake: Poet, Painter, and Prophet
ENGL 20228 / 30228
William Blake is arguably the most unusual figure in the history of English poetry and visual art. Recognized now as an essential part of the canon of Romantic poetry, he was almost completely unknown in his own time. His paintings, poems, and illuminated books were objects of fascination for a small group of admirers, but it was not until the late 19th century that his work began to be collected by William Butler Yeats, and not until the 1960s that he was recognized as a major figure in the history of art and literature. Dismissed as insane in his own time, his prophetic and visionary works are now seen as anticipating some of the most radical strands of modern thought, including Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche. We will study Blake’s work from a variety of perspectives, placing his poetry in relation to the prophetic ambitions of Milton and his visual images in the European iconographic tradition of Michelangelo and Durer, Goya and Fuseli. The course will emphasize close readings of his lyric poems, and attempt to open up the mythic cosmology of his allegorical, epic, and prophetic books. (Poetry, 1650-1830, Theory; 18th/19th)
In the wake of the American and French Revolutions, and still in the early days of the worlds first Industrial Revolution, two British poets—William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge--set out to produce another kind of revolution that they hoped could save their readers from a harsh new world of culture and sensibility brought on by “causes unknown to former times.” Their experiments in poetry were informed by a likewise unprecedented analysis of the problems that they saw besetting their own moment. It was an extraordinary exercise in critical media theory very much avant la lettre. Both the experiments and the analysis had far-reaching on poets of their moment—especially Shelley and Keats—and poets beyond it, and have mattered much to the modern understanding of literature and criticism well into the twentieth century and into our own time. This course will take up the challenge of coming to terms with the Romantic “revolution in taste” in close engagements with both familiar and unfamiliar works. We will read other poets of the period, including Blake, Byron, Charlotte Smith, and Anna Laetitia Barbauld—and also come to terms with the massive legacy of Romantic poetry and poetics ever since, not least in the formation of modern practical criticism. There will be a short paper (3-4 pp.) and a longer one (15 pp.). (18th/19th)
Modernist Poetry: Yeats, Eliot, Pound
ENGL 26708 / 34620
We will study selected works by Yeats, Eliot, Pound, H.D., Auden, Stevens, Williams, Loy, and others. Some 19th C authors, such as Browning, Tennyson, and Whitman, will also be addressed. (Poetry, 1830-1940; 20th/21st)
Lyric Intimacies in the Renaissance
ENGL 22140 / 40140 / GNSE 44440
This course will examine how writers in the Atlantic and Mediterranean world used lyric verse as a tool for establishing, imagining or faking intimacy—with potential lovers, employers, friends, and God. Poetry has often been perceived as a peculiarly intimate medium, tasked with providing access to a person’s inner experience: we’ll examine how Renaissance poets created the experience of lyric nearness and track the social functions the poetry of intimacy served. The course will feature British authors such as William Shakespeare, John Donne and Katherine Philips in conversation with Petrarch’s transformational sonnets, verse in the Islamic poetic tradition by Hafez and ‘A’ishah al-Ba’uniyyah, and the work of writers in the Americas such as Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz and Anne Bradstreet. Along the way, we will explore some of the following questions: what was the gender politics of Renaissance lyric? How did writers make space for queer or heteronormative writing and attachment within the conventions of the love poem? What looks familiar about the forms of intimacy we find in these texts? What remains profoundly strange about them?
Study of William Blake's unique combination of poetry-making and print-making, with special attention to its service to his theology.
To browse more courses, visit my.uchicago.edu.