course learning goals and outcomes:
while I hope each of you will develop an individualized set of goals and outcomes for this course and your contributions to it, I also encourage you to use these overall course goals as a way to consider skill acquisition and assessment as it relates to our course.
- To be able to contextualize and analyze the materials or topics covered, historically, politically, or culturally.
- To be able to analyze, discuss, and write about literary texts from a range of perspectives—including the ability to perform close readings of literary texts and interrogate the assumptions, theories, and methodologies involved in different reading practices.
- To be able to put primary literary texts in conversation with secondary texts, cultural, historical lenses, and lived experiences.
- To develop fluency with academic writing through frequent and varied writing tasks.
- To be able, through writing and rigorous discussion, new lines of inquiry and develop sound metacognitive practices that critically reflect on their critical reading practices.
Welcome to English 200: a community of readers, writers, thinkers, and individuals. This class will take the sonnet as its primary object of inquiry and analysis. In only fourteen lines, the sonnet has proven to be one of the most durable and adaptive poetic forms. We will examine the genealogy of this form as it is established historically and formally over multiple centuries. While introducing the literary history of the form we will produce analysis that considers the strictures and structures of one of the most capacious and “traditional” forms in English poetry. Approaching our poems and other texts thematically, this class aims to provide training in the reading of meter, patterns of sound, rhythm, and in the close reading of verse, prose, and dramatic text features.
Studying the technology of the sonnet will produce careful, critical, and creative readings of Petrarch, Shakespeare, Rilke, Baudelaire, Neruda, Yeats, and many more. We will additionally perform comparative and generative readings of our poetic texts against Modern and early Modern drama, from Shakespeare to Shaw, Michael Radford’s film Il Postino, the music of Bob Dylan, texts of myth in Ovid’s The Metamorphoses, and even social media, allowing us to examine the sonnet “tradition” by taking up the ways in which this form and its thematic treatments of love, death, time, and composition make possible these echoes across the forms of myth, prose, drama, and film.
Throughout the quarter we will constantly address questions about comparative methodologies of reading through the lenses of form, history, culture, and language. We will ask questions about the role of literary “tradition” as it shapes what is possible to say in poetry and what poetic forms make possible for us to say about problems of tradition—especially as it relates to categories like dynamics of power, diversity, inclusion, and representation. The sonnet has always managed to make itself relevant through centuries of use and across multiple languages and cultures. It will be our task to consider how our study of poesis and poetics can tell us new things about how language empowers us as readers and critics to continue to make and become fuller participants of our world.
This course meets the University of Washington’s writing requirement (a "W" course) and consequently you will be asked to write multiple 200-300 word paragraph commentaries as part of our online discussion board in addition to a 4-6 page midterm and final project of 5-7 pages. The shorter writing assignments are designed to lead into the longer papers and afford opportunities to practice the skills of slow, deliberate, and focused readerly observations and analysis and well-organized writing that will be essential to successful longer papers.