ENGLISH 240 - Introduction to Reading Poetry
Winter 2022, Section 001 - Documentary Poetry
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is   Hybrid (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


In this course, we will discover, learn, and unlearn our personal and cultural mythologies about reading poetry, with a focus on reading historical and contemporary documentary poems. Students will focus specifically on documentary poems that stretch, preserve, or subvert notions of community and of "selfhood." We will ask questions to guide our reading, writing, and discussion, such as: Who gets to write (and hold) history? What makes something a ‘documentary poem’? What does the verb “document” entail – who gets to “document” a place? What qualifies as a “document”? How might the documentary erase or expand the borders of a material object? Of the body? Of the self? Students will study poets and writers like Mark Nowack, Claudia Rankine, Muriel Rukeyser, Langston Hughes, Solmaz Sharif, and Terence Hayes, to name a few. Inspired by poet Solmaz Sharif, we will also consider what it means to expand the historical archives of a place by paying attention to a “variety of languages […] each with their own music, their own relationship to power [...] ” Students should expect to complete weekly readings, as well as a series of literary analytic essays, throughout the semester.

Course Requirements:

Grade breakdown:

  • 20% Daily Engagement
  • 15% Presentation on a documentary poet of your choice
  • 20% Essay 1: You will choose one of our course readings to analyze and describe how it’s helping you (re)think the “documentary” in different ways.
  • 20% Essay 2: You will write a letter to a documentary poet of your choice, describing how their work expands or challenges your understanding of a particular community issue in your life.
  • 20% Essay 3: You will bring in a new documentary text alongside one of our existing course readings to describe how both are working in conversation with one another.
  • 5% Writing Workshop

While this is a literary analysis course, there will also be optional creative documentary poetry writing prompts for you to engage with throughout the semester.


ENGLISH 240 - Introduction to Reading Poetry
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM

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