ENGL 443 A: Poetry: Special Studies

Meeting Time: 
MW 10:30am - 12:20pm
LOW 219
LaPorte photo
Charles LaPorte

Syllabus Description:

Nineteenth-Century Poetry: Steamships, Telegraphs, and Transatlantic Exchanges

English 443A, Win 2018

MW 10:30-12:20

Loew 219


Professor Charles LaPorte

Office: A508 Padelford Hall

Office Hours: MW 3:30-4:20

Email: laporte@uw.edu


Course Description: Poetry in the nineteenth century was a popular as well as a highbrow art form and possessed a breadth of readership unimaginable today.  Many anglophone poets enjoyed enormous readerships well beyond their home countries (e.g. Longfellow in Britain, Tennyson and the Brownings in America, Poe in France).  This course will discuss mid-nineteenth-century British and American poetry in the context of transatlantic exchanges.  Among other topics, we will address the politics of sentimental poetics, the connections between poetry and nationalism, the material conditions that enabled transatlantic literary exchanges (printing presses, transatlantic steamship voyages, new technologies for communicating), the ongoing importance of human and animal rights in the nineteenth century (especially in relation to American slavery), and evolving theories (often understood in national contexts) of poetic form.  And, of course, the class will focus upon poetry: some of the most influential poetry and poetic theory written in the nineteenth century.


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.



The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry, concise ed (Broadview, 155111366x)

The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol B (Norton, 0393927407)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (Penguin, 0140434127)

Walt Whitman, Complete Poems (Penguin, 0140424512)


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 periodic 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 recite a poem once in 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. (At the beginning of each class, I will ask for volunteers.) Your recitation will not be graded, though it will count toward your class participation grade. Students suffering from severe fear of public speaking (glossophobia) may inquire about alternative assignments. I will speak further about the parameters of this assignment as the quarter begins.


Digital Vita: Since this class serves as a Senior Capstone for the English major, we will construct a brief electronic vita, assessing the skills that you have developed over the course of your university experience and considering how these might be applied in future settings. The portfolio will include a piece of self-reflective writing.


Papers: You will write two 5-page papers and 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:


Paper 1:



Paper 2:



Class Participation (including poetry recitation and response papers):



Digital Vita:




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 laptops during class discussion or lecture, and that I prefer your using paper books to e-readers. 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 cell phone, etc.). Students found texting during class will receive poor participation marks.


On UW English Values:

            The UW English Department aims to help students become more incisive thinkers, effective communicators, and imaginative writers by acknowledging that language and its use is powerful and holds the potential to empower individuals and communities; to provide the means to engage in meaningful conversation and collaboration across differences and with those with whom we disagree; and to offer methods for exploring, understanding, problem solving, and responding to the many pressing collective issues we face in our world—skills that align with and support the University of Washington’s mission to educate “a diverse student body to become responsible global citizens and future leaders through a challenging learning environment informed by cutting-edge scholarship.”

            As a department, we begin with the conviction that language and texts play crucial roles in the constitution of cultures and communities. Our disciplinary commitments to the study of language, literature, and culture require of us a willingness to engage openly and critically with questions of power and difference. As such, in our teaching, service, and scholarship we frequently initiate and encourage conversations about topics such as race, immigration, gender, sexuality, and class. These topics are fundamental to the inquiry we pursue. We are proud of this fact, and we are committed to creating an environment in which our faculty and students can do so confidently and securely, knowing that they have the backing of the department.

            Towards that aim, we value the inherent dignity and uniqueness of individuals and communities. We aspire to be a place where human rights are respected and where any of us can seek support. This includes people of all ethnicities, genders, national origins, political views, and citizenship status; of all faiths or none; LGBQTIA+; those with disabilities; veterans; and anyone who has been targeted, abused, or disenfranchised.





* =handout or Canvas PDF

bvp = from Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory, concise ed.

NAAL = Norton Anthology of American Literature


Week 1:

Wed, Jan 3: Intro: Robert Browning, "My Last Duchess" (handout)


Week 2:

Mon, Jan 8: Wordsworth "Tintern Abbey"*; William Cullen Bryant, all from NAAL; "W.C. Bryant" (1844), from Littell's Living Age (pdf); Edgar Allan Poe, all poems from NAAL;


Wed, Jan 10: Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Divinity School Address," "The Poet" + all lyrics (NAAL); Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, all poems from NAAL


Week 3:

Jan 15 MLK Day


Wed, Jan 17: Alfred Tennyson, "Mariana," "The Lady of Shalott," "The Palace of Art," "The Poet's Mind," "The Kraken" "The Charge of the Light Brigade"; Arthur Hallam, "Some ... Characteristics of Modern Poetry"

(BVP); Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Cry of the Children," from Poems of 1844, "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point"



Week 4:

Mon, Jan 22: Felicia Hemans, all from BVP, "Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England"*; Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney, all from NAAL; J. S. Mill, "What Is Poetry?" (BVP)


Wed, Jan 24: Browning, "Porphyria's Lover," "The Lost Leader," "Bishop Orders his Tomb," "Caliban Upon Setebos"; Hulme, "Romanticism and Classicism" (pdf)


2/15: *Extra Credit Opportunity*: Tennyson at Seattle Chamber Orchestra


Week 5:

Mon, Jan 29: Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam prologue, 1-6, 34, 47-59, 129-131


Wed, Jan 31: Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach" (bvp); Arthur Hugh Clough, poems and "Recent English Poetry" (BVP); Brenda Hillman, "Sediments of Santa Monica" (pdf); Daljit Nagra, "Look We Have Coming to Dover!"

*Paper 1 Draft Due*


Week 6:

Mon, Feb 5: Walt Whitman, text from Leaves of Grass, first edition


Wed, Feb 7: Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric," "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," "Miracles"

*Paper 1 Due*


Week 7:

Mon, Feb 12: EBB, Aurora Leigh, through book 4



*** Deadline for Poetry Recitations for those with surnames S-Z ****


2/15: *Extra Credit Opportunity*: Stephanie Burt Lecture in Intellectual House


Week 8:

Feb 19: Presidents Day-- No class


Wed, Feb 21:  Aurora Leigh, completed

*** Deadline for Poetry Recitations for those with surnames O-R ****


Week 9:

Mon, Feb 26: Alfred Austin, "Mr. Tennyson," "The Poetry of the Future" (pdf); Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Hymn to Proserpine," "The Leper," "Ave Atque Vale"; Christina Rossetti, all from BVP;


Wed, Feb 28: Frances E. W. Harper, all from NAAL; Gerard Manley Hopkins, all from BVP

*Paper 2 Draft Due*

*** Deadline for Poetry Recitations for those with surnames H-N ****



Week 10:

Mon, Mar 5: Emily Dickinson, all from NAAL


Wed, Mar 7: Emily Dickinson, letters to T. W. Higginson*

*** Deadline for Poetry Recitations for those with surnames A-G ****


*Paper 2 Due Friday, March 9 @ 5 pm*

 *Digital Vita Due Wednesday, March 14, @ 5pm*






[i] This schedule is my best approximation of how the class ought to move along. I have attempted to negotiate between assigning too much reading and giving you insufficient amounts of material to write on. I reserve the right to change the order of works as seems best to suit our needs as a learning community. --CPL

Catalog Description: 
A poetic tradition or group of poems connected by subject matter or poetic technique. Specific topics vary, but might include poetry as a geography of mind, the development of the love lyric, the comic poem.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 10:20pm