ENG 580: Topics in Poetry and Poetics

Prerequisites: Graduate standing in English or permission of instructor.

Recent offerings:

Poetics and Discipline (Spring 2018, Friedlander)

From its inception as a modern profession, literary study has drawn inspiration and taken direction from the critical labor of poets. In this seminar, we will look at several episodes in that history, beginning with three precursors in the nineteenth century: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, first professor of comparative literature at Harvard; Sidney Lanier, who lectured on poetry at Johns Hopkins; and James Russell Lowell, first president of the MLA. We will then turn to two modes of academic study that dominated much of the twentieth century, each with a deep source in poetics: the “New Criticism,” which drew broadly on T. S. Eliot, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Laura Riding, and Robert Penn Warren; and the American Studies mode on display in the critical writings of Charles Olson, Muriel Rukeyser, and William Carlos Williams. The course will conclude with three poets who had a decisive influence on social movements in the sixties and seventies, with a corresponding impact on the disciplines: Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Rich, and Gary Snyder, crucial figures in the Black Power, Women’s, and Environmental Movements, and early proponents of Black Studies, Gender Studies, and Ecocriticism.

The emphasis throughout will be twofold: first, bringing to light the poetic labor hidden in so much academic study; and second, discerning missed opportunities in the disciplination of that labor. Texts and assignments are still to be determined, but I am hoping to arrange things so that most of our time is spent on the last three figures.

May be repeated for credit.

The Nineties (Spring 2017, Evans)

The National Poetry Foundation will host a major conference on The Poetry and Poetics of the 1990s in late June 2017 here on the flagship campus of the University of Maine. This seminar will survey the decade’s literary and artistic practices with a focus on the writers, movements, concepts, and controversies that are likely to be represented in the context of the conference. Special attention will be paid to the formidable sonic archive associated with the poetry of the 1990s, but students will have considerable leeway in determining the direction their research takes. The seminar will also offer a glimpse of—and, for those who are interested, a chance to participate in—the behind-the-scenes work that goes into hosting a national event that blends scholarship (academic conference) and creative work (literary festival).

Poetics of Translation (Spring 2015, Billitteri)

Intensive study of literary language and practice focusing primarily but not exclusively on poetry.  Topics will vary widely but fit one or more of the following general areas of emphasis: theories of poetry and poetic production; surveys focusing on work from more than one historical period or national literature; studies of the critical and other prose writings of poets; courses on critical theory in which poetry plays a key role; narratology and genre theory.

The Poetics of Translation (Spring 2014, Moxley)

How are literary translations made? What did the ancients think about it? What is the difference between translating sacred and secular texts? What about poetry and prose? What is Translation Studies? In this seminar we will study the poetics of literary translation from both a critical and creative perspective. We will focus on translation as a method of reading and writing. This course will especially appeal to students interested in crossing linguistic and formal boundaries as a way to become better creative writers and intellectuals. Non-traditional approaches to translation (homophonic, English-to-English, literary-to-visual, etc.) will be encouraged, as will collaboration with dictionaries and native speakers. Two years of study of a second language recommended but not required.

The Poetics of Phonotextuality: Timbre, Text, and Technology in Recorded Poetry (Spring 2013, Evans)

This seminar will offer a systematic introduction to an exciting new development in the field of poetics (and literary studies more generally), the emergence of “phonotextual” studies concerned with the analysis and interpretation of poems not just as printed texts but as voiced structures whose meaning can be “sounded” as well as seen. In addition to exploring the sonic archive of modern and contemporary poetry through on-line resources like PennSound and Ubuweb, we’ll work through a fascinating body of secondary literature from the fields of poetics, linguistics, literary criticism, prosody, speech pragmatics, psychoanalysis, and the new media as we seek to fashion a supple critical vocabulary for the description, interpretation, and evaluation of poetry sound files. Students will learn the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and to use sound editing and analysis software applications (Audacity, Praat) that allow us to visualize (and manipulate) the sound shape of poetic language. In addition to conventional writing assignments (including a substantial, research-based seminar paper), students can also expect to program a radio segment and to make regular postings to a course blog. One of the goals of the seminar will be to examine the way that concerns, concepts, and categories long associated with the field of poetics, from Aristotle to modern times, can be restored to relevance in our digital age.