ENGLISH 461 - English Romantic Literature
Winter 2018, Section 001 - Defending Poetry
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
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The polemic of this course is related to the increasing pressure being put on the liberal arts to justify their practical value in a society whose hottest industry is information. Poetry has long been regarded as the purest, most disinterested of the verbal arts, the genre that often defines itself as having a higher utility than what reigns in the “real world.” Poetry is also the literary genre that has most stridently declared its indifference to “information” and (as if the two were mutually exclusive) its focus on “meaning.”

We sample some of the Western tradition’s most influential accounts of poetry, from Antiquity to the present, testing their claims from the inside. Thus, a) we go deep enough into each argument to begin to glimpse its limits and/or presuppositions; and b) we pair actual poems with the essays to study how the theories stand up to the test of practice The belief grounding this course is that poetry has a payoff in its own right which has nothing to do with the “expression of ideas.” This payoff is what gets lost in translation, when translation is understood as prose paraphrase. Paradoxically, however, this payoff happens ONLY through translation, when translation is understood as negotiating the tension between an object oriented language (a language about objects and a language having an objective or “point”) and an object-like language (a language aspiring to the sensuous richness of object life in its own right). Translation of this kind – critical reproduction – rejects both an information/reference model of poetry and a “beauty” or “art for art’s sake” model.

The course therefore emphasizes conceptual work on language patterns; it targets students who enjoy detailed verbal analysis (and who want to learn to do it) and who have the energy and appetite for making knowledge, not just acquiring it.

Materials for the course include selections from the canons of classical and English criticism (Aristotle, Horace, Longinus; Sidney, Johnson, Pope), from British and German 19th-c aesthetics (Kant, Schiller, Wordsworth, Shelley, Pater), and from 20th-c Continental traditions of language theory (e.g., Shklovsky and other Russian Formalists), social theory (e.g., Adorno, Benjamin), and art activism (e.g., the Futurist manifesto). Poems are chosen from the entire repertoire of British and American poetry of the modern periods (i.e., Renaissance through contemporary).

Course Requirements:

Requirements include one short paper, a group presentation, and a 12-20 page research paper that can be developed from the group presentation.

Texts: Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, second edition. Feel free to buy a used copy of this volume. Additional materials will be available through Canvas.

Intended Audience:

Upper-level and/or intellectually serious students from all majors (not just English!)

Class Format:

Mixed lecture/seminar


ENGLISH 461 - English Romantic Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
 In Person
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
1/3/18 - 4/17/18

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