ENGL 243 A: Reading Poetry

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
MEB 103
LaPorte photo
Charles LaPorte

Syllabus Description:

Professor Charles LaPorte (laporte@u.washington.edu)

Fall Quarter 2015

ENGL 243A: Reading Poetry (5, max. 15)

TTH 2:30-4:20 // MEB 103

Office Hours: TTh 11:30-12:20

Course Description: Our course will serve as an in-depth consideration of the genre of poetry. We will focus upon English-language traditions from the medieval period to the present day. Generally speaking, we will progress from older works to more recent ones. We will devote special attention to the sonnet as a form of particular importance in this tradition. We will devote our classes in the month of December to UW poets: professors, lecturers, and former students who have taught and written poetry on this campus.


Learning objectives for this course will include the following:

To gain a deeper insight into and appreciation for poetry, especially as it differs from other forms of literary expression.

To better appreciate the importance of cultural contexts for literary works.

To appreciate the peculiar difficulties that poetry poses for translators.

To be able to produce a nuanced close reading (explication de texte) of a given literary object.

To enhance analytical, interpretative, and argumentative skills for discussing and writing about cultural objects.


Class Participation: This is not a textbook course, and the ideas that we will discuss are not ideas that one can figure out alone in one's room with a compass and protractor. Rather, the course concerns the evolution of cultural ideas, and I wish to give each of you ample opportunity to share your ideas about art and culture. (Don't worry if you feel like you don't have any such ideas to share; as we progress you will find that you have plenty!) Accordingly, I reward with high participation marks those who contribute to the classroom learning experience as a whole.

            Since the class is built around student participation, I allow for only two absences during the course of the quarter. After two absences (i.e. one week of class), your participation grade will diminish. Kindly let me know in advance if you'll miss a class but do not feel compelled to relate to me any reason behind a given absence. I trust your judgment, and I do not wish to be the arbiter of legitimate and illegitimate excuses. Simply remember that the quarter is long, and that your participation points at the end of the term depend upon your contribution to the class. If you will be absent on a day that you are to submit a version of a paper, it is your responsibility to get that paper to me in a prompt and congenial manner. Lastly, in order to get good marks in participation, you will need to appear at class on time.

            I assign periodical in-class writings, which will help you to get into the habit of writing on poetry, and will help me to assess how well you're understanding the materials. These will not be individually graded, though I do take them into consideration when assessing participation.


Poetry Recitation: Because part of the point of the class is to familiarize you with poetry, you will each memorize and recite a poem, or part of a poem, once during the quarter.   It will be a poem of your own choosing, in the language of your choice, and you will decide when you'd like to recite it (within parameters). At the beginning of each class, I will ask for volunteers. Your recitation will not be graded although it serves as a component of your overall course participation. Students suffering from severe fear of public speaking may inquire about alternative assignments. I will speak further about the parameters of this assignment as the quarter gets underway.


Papers: You will write and revise two 5-page papers, as well as writing several in-class response papers over the course of the term.   Papers must be word-processed, double-spaced, and printed in "Times New Roman" 12-point font (or, in a pinch, "Times"). Late papers (both first and final submissions) are reduced 1/3 letter grade per weekday late. I do not accept email attachments.


Grade Distribution: Observe that your second paper is more pertinent to your final grade than your first. This is normal in language and literature courses; it gives you a chance to become as broadly and deeply acquainted as possible with the course material before writing your final essay.


Paper 1:



Paper 2:



Class Participation (including poetry recitation and response papers):




A Brief Explanation of Paper Grades: What follows are some basic interpretative notes on paper grades as I use them in all my courses. In them, I borrow directly from the grading policies of fellow instructors in the department. What follows thus represents a fair sample of UW English instructors. It is also the best representation I can give you of how I measure your writing in this class.

An "A" paper explores a literary or critical issue in a manner that is both lucid and elegant. It represents an intellectual problem or critical stance, and shows how that problem or stance is best resolved. The A paper illuminates its subject in a fashion that surprises the casual reader, and calls him or her to reconsider the issue in light of the essay's claims. The A paper takes intellectual risks: its topic is challenging, and its treatment thorough and insightful. It is virtually free of errors, and it goes beyond issues that we have discussed in class, or casts new light on those issues. The thesis in A papers will be clear, complex, and immediately engaging.

A "B" paper is most characterized by good organization and depth of analysis. It makes a worthwhile point about a particular text through careful analysis. It separates the different levels of an argument, and shows how those levels underlie, support, and limit one another. It is marked by smooth transitions, close readings, and quotations from relevant passages. The argument is strong enough to withstand the most obvious opposition, and the paper responds to potential counter-arguments. The essay shows a good, strong understanding of the text. It is for the most part well written. Although there may be grammatical errors, there are none that obscure the writer's intention. The B paper does not achieve the level of elegance or the depth of insight found in the A paper, but it nevertheless represents a fine achievement.

A "C" essay demonstrates a generally good grasp of the text, and a generally workable idea, but its analysis may be weakened by problems with expression, or else it is well written but misses significant points in its interpretation, or else its articulation of the idea is too vague to be captivating. In other words, the paper's argument may be theoretically good but superficially rendered. The paper makes good points and demonstrates an understanding of the text or subject, but it is not well organized or backed up by a close examination of that subject. It tends to present summary in the place of analysis. The author may not have accounted for obvious counter-arguments. The grammar occasionally obscures the author's intention, or interrupts reading. It shows a want of careful proofreading. Absence of a thesis will invariably keep a critical paper in the C, or more likely, the D range. The C grade is not an indictment, but it is an indication that the writer ought to revise and develop the essay more thoroughly.

A "D" essay attempts to address a reasonable subject, but lacks a sophisticated thesis (or any thesis at all). The paper thus does not have a clear point to make, and the reader will be confused about what the essay is trying to accomplish. In the absence of an organizing argument, the paper will be hard to follow in a number of places. It may entail misreadings of the text, or grammatical errors that obscure meaning. Like the C paper, it tends to present summary in the place of analysis, and it shows a want of careful proofreading.

The "E" paper does not fulfill the assignment in a reasonable or competent fashion.


Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the act of presenting another’s work as your own. The University of Washington takes a very dim view of plagiarism – please consult the Faculty Resource on Grading Website if you have any questions about this: <http://depts.washington.edu/grading/



On Laptop Computers and Other Wireless Electronic Devices: Please be advised that I frown upon the use of electronic devices during class discussion or lecture. I realize that some students prefer to take notes on laptops, but this convenience is counterbalanced by the fact that they distract others. They also tempt users to multi-task (further distracting others). Before class, then, please put away your laptop (likewise your iPad, cell phone, etc.). There are no ebook versions of the course texts.



The Norton Anthology of Poetry, shorter 5th ed. Norton, 2005

100 Love Sonnets, Pablo Neruda (U of Texas Press), 1986

The Same-Different: Poems, Hannah Sanghee Park (LSU Press), 2015


Proposed Schedule:


Week 1:

October 1: Intro; Auden's "Sept 1, 1939."


Week 2:

October 6: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "How Do I Love Thee?," from Aurora Leigh; Robert Browning, "Fra Lippo Lippi," "My Last Duchess," "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"; from Wilde's Intentions (pdf)


October 8: Anonymous lyrics of the 13th and 14th centuries; Anonymous lyrics of the 15th c., Anon. "There is a lady sweet and kind," "Lord Randal," "The Unquiet Grave," "Bonny Barbara Allen"; Sir Thomas Wyatt (all); Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (all); Anne Askew, "The Ballad Which Anne Askew Made"; E. A. Robinson (all); Popular ballads of the Twentieth Century (Seeger, Dylan); Theodore Roosevelt on E. A. Robinson (pdf)


Week 3:

October 13: Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella 1, 31, 48; Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love"; Raleigh (all); Massachusetts Bay Psalm Book (all)


October 15: William Shakespeare (all sonnets); Jonson, "On my first Daughter," "On my first Son," "Inviting a Friend to Supper"; Aemilia Lanyer (all) **Deadline for Recitations of A-G**


Week 4:  

October 20: Ben John Donne, "The Good-Morrow," Song, "Woman's Constancy," "The Sun Rising," "The Canonization," "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," "The Ecstasy," "The Flea," "The Relic," Holy Sonnets 7, 10, 14; John Milton, "On Shakespeare," "When I Consider How My Light is Spent," "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont," "Methought I Saw"; Paradise Lost, from Book I; Edward Taylor, "Upon Wedlock, and the Death of Children" *Paper #1 Short Proposal Due*


October 22: Aphra Behn, "To the Fair Clorinda, Who Made Love to Me, Imagined More than Woman"; Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"; Christopher Smart, from Jubilate Agno; Psalm 58, Psalm 114; Anna Laetitia Barbauld (all); Phillis Wheatley (all); William Blake, from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience; Robert Burns, "To A Mouse," "Auld Lang Syne"


Week 5:  

October 27: William Wordsworth, "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," "Anecdote for Fathers," "Ode: Intimations of Immortality"; "The World is Too Much with Us"; "Surprised by Joy" *Paper #1 Draft Due*


October 29: John Clare (all); Felicia Hemans (all); William Cullen Bryant, "Thanatopsis"; John Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Ode," "Intellect"; Edgar Allan Poe, "Sonnet—to Science," "The Raven" **Deadline for Recitations of H-K**


Week 6:

November 3: Alfred Tennyson, "Mariana," "Ulysses," "Tithonus," from In Memoriam A. H. H.; Emily Brontë (all); Arthur Hugh Clough, from Amours de Voyage; Julia Ward Howe, "Battle Hymn of the Republic"; Christina Rossetti, "Echo"


November 5: Walt Whitman (all)


Week 7:  

November 10: Emily Dickinson (all)  **Deadline for Recitations of L-P**


November 12: Edward Lear (all); Lewis Carroll (all); Ogden Nash (all) *Paper #1 Final Due*

[Class meets in Library Special Collections for class with Sandra Kroupa, Special Collections Librarian]


Week 8:

November 17: Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur," "The Windhover," "Pied Beauty," "As Kingfishers Catch Fire"; W. B. Yeats, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," "When You are Old" "Adam's Curse," "No Second Troy"; Gwendolyn Brooks (all); Elizabeth Bishop, "Sestina" *Paper #2 Proposal Due*


November 19: Anthony Hecht, "The Book of Yolek"; Sylvia Plath (all) Derek Walcott (all); Jane Shore, "High Holy Days"; Pablo Neruda, "To Matilde Urrutia"; Sonnets 1-9 **Deadline for Recitations of S-V**


Week 9:

November 24: Pablo Neruda, Sonnets 20, 25, 31-33, 44, 53-54, 57-59, 78, 82, 96, 99-100. *Paper #2 Prospectus Due*


[November 26: Thanksgiving Weekend]


Week 10:

December 1: Theodore Roethke (all); Richard Hugo (all); James Wright (all); Elizabeth Bishop, "Casabianca," "One Art"; Louise Bogan, "Juan's Song," "Man Alone, "Song for the Last Act," "Night"


December 3: James Wright, "To the Muse," "Sappho"; Heather McHugh, "What He Thought," "Note Delivered by Female Impersonator," "Connubial," "Granny's Song"; Linda Bierds, "On Reflection," Richard Kenney, "Aubade," "Song," "Shall I Compare Thee to Appearances," "Alba Mine," "Communications System," "Late Child"; Pimone Triplett, "House of Rumor," "Abstract and Figure"; Andrew Feld, "On Fire," "Quarters"**Deadline for Recitations of W-Z**, *Paper #2 Draft Due*


Week 11:

December 8: Hannah Sanghee Park, "Bang," "Another Truth," "And a Lie," "One Truth," "And A Lie," "T/F," "P's and Q's," "No Man is an Island," "Q," "&A," "The Same-Different," "Narcissus in Janurary," "Norroway in February," "Ammit in March"


December 10: Hannah Sanghee Park, "The Fox Bead in May," "The Jackalope in October," "The Deer Woman in December," "Preface to Fear/False Spring"


Final Paper Due Date: Tuesday, Dec 15, at 3:00 p.m. under my office door!




Catalog Description: 
Critical interpretation and meaning in poems, representing a variety of types and periods.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
February 19, 2016 - 9:28am