The Program in Poetry and Poetics brings together a diverse community of literary scholars, poets, and translators working on poetry and poetics across a spectrum of regions, historical periods, and theoretical approaches at the University of Chicago. Our faculty includes experts on classical Chinese poetry, the French avant-garde, the modern reception of archaic Greek poetry, and contemporary British and American writing, to name but a few areas of scholarly interest. Through our ongoing programs and initiatives, we seek to expand the critical understanding of poetics as a field that encompasses not only the study of poetry, but various aspects of literary theory, media studies, and historicist models of inquiry as well. Because many of the faculty members and graduate students presently engaged in the study of poetry and poetics at Chicago are publishing poets, we also foster work that crosses the border between critical thought and creative practice.
We invite you to join us at any of the events that we host during the academic year. Our poetry reading series, Poem Present, brings distinguished contemporary poets such as Simone White, Brandon Shimoda, Susan Stewart, Nathaniel Mackey, and Robert Hass to read from their work at the university. Our scholarly lecture series, History and Forms of Lyric, has invited visitors such as Andrea Brady, Adriana Jacobs, Liesl Olson, Marjorie Perloff and Michael Wood to deliver papers on scholarly subjects relating to poetry as well. The university also hosts the Poetry and Poetics Workshop, a working colloquium for graduate students, scholars, and poets studying poetry both at the university and beyond. Additionally, the Poetics Program has long-standing ties to our graduate student-run literary journal, The Chicago Review, one of the nation’s premier literary journals.
Poetry and Poetics Workshop
The Poetry and Poetics Workshop provides a forum for all those members of the University devoted to the study of poetry, be they graduate students, faculty, or poets. The workshop is committed to historical and formal engagement with poetry in all languages and across all periods, welcoming comparative work, as well as work that issues from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Beyond this core concern, we also value poetics broadly construed, including theories of the principles of creation, technique and composition in literary texts and, by extension, visual art, cinema and other art forms. Graduate students from any field are especially encouraged to present essays and dissertation chapters at the workshop.
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.
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