This seminar will explore a variety of contexts within which North American poetry presents itself, and in which it can be analyzed. Roughly, these contexts can be identified as formal, performative/affective, and socio-political. One of the objectives of the seminar will be to observe how these contexts interact and how they produce (which) meanings. In looking at formal contexts, we will focus on the aural qualities of poems (sound, rhythm, meter, etc.), on their imagery (metaphor, metonymy, etc.), and on their visuality (from lines, breaks, dashes in written poetry to explicitly visual poetry). Within socio-political contexts, we will look at the cultural capital of poetry and its role in nation-building (e.g., through inaugural poets and poet laureates). Let us find out how the affective and performative qualities of poetry link these two contexts!
Given the approach outlined above, we will study a wide variety of North American poets from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries, whose work encompasses varying degrees of complexity. The course will have analytical and practical elements. Students are expected to engage with formal and cultural analysis and research, and to be open to creative work. There will be both group-work and individual assignments. The course will be taught in a hybrid format, with (hopefully) in-class sessions, digital sessions on Zoom, and asynchronous elements.