Principles of Literary Study, Spring 2023

Co-taught with Teresa Ramoni.

This course is an introduction to the discipline of English literary studies, focusing on ways to answer the fundamental questions academic readers ask about poems, short stories, and novels: How is it put together? What meanings does it convey? What effects does it achieve? How does it relate to the cultures and societies in which it is read? Learning to answer these questions about a variety of poems, short stories, and novels, students sharpen their skills as readers, writers, and thinkers.

The breadth of literature in English is represented by highly selective introductions to two broad genres, poetry and prose fiction, spanning works from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first, from North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Students develop a strong foundation in formal analysis, learning to identify and analyze the components of verse and narrative—rhyme, meter, stanza; plot, character, point of view—as well as significant aspects of literary language in general. But formal analysis matters only in connection with arguments about what texts mean; in discussion and in written assignments, students practice presenting literary interpretations systematically and convincingly.

Syllabus (pdf). Slides are linked below.

  • January 19. Introduction: ars poetica.

    • Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” (1872).
    • Anne Bradstreet, “The Author to Her Book” (1678).
    • Marianne Moore, “Poetry” (1919 and 1981).
    • OED, 3rd ed., s.v. “literature.”
  • January 23. Words and meanings.

    • Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella 1, 55 (ca. 1581–83).
    • John Donne, “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning” (ca. 1611?).
    • William Wordsworth, “A slumber did my spirit seal” (1798).
    • Ezra Pound, “In a station of the metro” (1913).
    • H.D., “Sea Rose” (1916).
    • Langston Hughes, “Harlem” (1951).
    • Philip Larkin, “This Be The Verse” (1974).
    • Rae Armantrout, “Will” (2013).
  • January 26. Lines and sentences.

    • William Shakespeare, Sonnets 18, 30, 116, 129 (1609).
    • George Herbert, “Jordan” (1), “Prayer” (1) (1633).
    • John Milton, “When I consider how my light is spent” (1652?).
    • Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” (1865).
    • Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man” (1923), “Man Carrying Thing” (1947).
    • Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool” (1959).
    • Terrance Hayes, “The Golden Shovel” (2010).
  • January 30. Meter (1): four beats.

    • Stauder, INTRA, §23 is optional.)
    • “Humpty Dumpty,” “Baa baa, black sheep,” “Skip-a to my Lou” (dates unknown).
    • John Newton, “Amazing Grace” (1779).
    • “Sir Patrick Spens” (before 1765).
    • William Blake, “The Lamb” (1789), “The Tyger” (1794).
    • William Wordsworth, “We are Seven” (1798).
    • Felicia Hemans, “Casabianca” (1826). Recommended: Catherine Robson, “Standing on the Burning Deck:Poetry, Performance, History.”
    • Emily Dickinson, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (1862), “I heard a Fly buzz - when I died” (1863).
    • Lewis Carroll, “Jabberwocky” (1871).
    • Muriel Rukeyser, “Ballad of Orange and Grape” (1973).
  • February 2. Meter (2): pentameter.

    • Stauder, INTRA, §4.1, 4.3.1–4.3.5 (all subsections of 4.3, on the Attridge system).
    • Shakespeare, Sonnets 49, 130 (1609).
    • Anna Letitia Barbauld, “Washing-Day” (1797).
    • Wordsworth, “Tintern Abbey” (1798).
    • Shelley, “England in 1819” (1819).
    • Wallace Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West” (1935).
  • February 6. Rhyme: couplets.

    • Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress” (1681).
    • Jonathan Swift, “The City Shower” (1710).
    • W.B. Yeats, “Adam’s Curse” (1903).
    • Wilfred Owen, “Strange Meeting” (1918).
    • Agha Shahid Ali, “Tonight” (1996).
  • February 9. Fixed form: sonnets.

    • Thomas Wyatt, “Whoso list to hunt” (1525?).
    • Shakespeare, Sonnets 1, 20, 35, 73, 125, 138, and those previously assigned: 18, 30, 49, 116, 129, 130.
    • Donne, Holy Sonnets 4, 10 (1609–?).
    • Wordsworth, “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” (1802).
    • Shelley, “England in 1819” (previously assigned).
    • George Meredith, Modern Love 1, 2 (1862).
    • W.B. Yeats, “Leda and the Swan” (1923).
    • Wallace Stevens, “Autumn Refrain” (1932).
    • Gwendolyn Brooks, “the rites for Cousin Vit” (1949).
    • Patrick Kavanagh, “Epic” (1951).
    • Seamus Heaney, “Clearances” 3, 7, 8 (1987).
    • Helen Vendler, The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1–10, 487–93.
  • February 13. Some stanza shapes.

    • John Donne, “The Canonization” (after 1603).
    • George Herbert, “Easter Wings” (1633).
    • John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819).
    • Thomas Hardy, “The Convergence of the Twain” (1914), “The Voice” (1914).
    • Marianne Moore, “The Fish” (1924).
    • W.H. Auden, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” (1939).
    • Wallace Stevens, “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour” (1954).
    • Elizabeth Bishop, “Sestina” (1965).
  • February 16. Speakers and addressees.

    • Donne, “The Flea,” “The Sun Rising” (after 1603), “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning” (previously assigned).
    • Phyllis Wheatley, “On Being Brought from Africa to America” (1773).
    • John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (previously assigned).
    • Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” (1842).
    • Emily Dickinson, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” (1861), “Publication - is the Auction” (1863).
    • Herman Melville, “Shiloh” (1862).
    • T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915).
    • Langston Hughes, “Good Morning Revolution” (1932).
    • Michael Warner, “What Like a Bullet Can Undeceive?”
  • February 20. Open form: an example.

    • T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land.
  • February 23. More open forms.

    • John Milton, “Lycidas” (1638).
    • Marianne Moore, “An Octopus” (1924).
    • A.R. Ammons, “Corsons Inlet” (1965).
    • Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck” (1972).
    • A.K. Ramanujan, “Elements of Composition” (1986).
  • February 27. Shahid (1).

  • March 2. Shahid (2). Additional poems:

    • Mark Strand, “The Garden” (1978).
    • Michael Palmer, “Construction of the Museum” (1991).
    • Evie Shockley, “where you are planted” (2011).
  • March 6. Plot.

    • Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1891).
    • Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” (1892).
  • March 9. Genre.

    • Dashiell Hammett, “Crooked Souls” (1923).
    • John Frow, Genre, 6–19, 134–41.
  • March 20. Frames.

    • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818), vol. 1.
  • March 23. Intertextuality.

    • Shelley, vols. 1–2.
    • Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Mont Blanc” (1817).
  • March 27. Narrative closure.

    • Shelley, Frankenstein, complete.
  • March 30. Textuality.

  • April 3. Point of View.

    • Henry James, “The Middle Years” (1893).
  • April 6. Narration (no slides available).

    • Vera Caspary, Laura (1942), 1–51.
  • April 10–13. Other activities took place.

  • April 17. Closure?

    • Laura, complete.
  • April 20. Reported discourse.

    • Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958), chaps. 1–8.
  • April 24. Irony.

    • Achebe, chaps. 1–12.
  • April 27. Which side?

    • Achebe chaps. 1–19.
  • Monday, May 1. Arguments.