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LIT 35 — Poetry Without Fear

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Thursdays
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Date(s): Mar 31—Jun 2
Duration: 10 weeks
Drop By
Drop Deadline: Apr 13
Unit(s): 2 Units
Tuition: $405
Format: On-campus course
Status: Open
For many people, poetry is a beautiful but mysterious and sometimes baffling form of literature. A line of lyricism can light up the world. The rhythm in a few specially chosen words can haunt the mind. A short poem, learned (in that beautiful phrase) “by heart,” can go with us everywhere. But, as often as not, unfamiliar poetry, particularly from previous centuries, remains hard to understand and readers often turn away discouraged, or worse—missing a chance for an encounter with a memorable, even life-altering, work of verbal art.

This course will focus not on strictly academic knowledge about poetry but rather on practical reading skills and basic techniques that are applicable to all kinds of different poems. What should you do when you meet a poem? How should you talk to it? How can you make sure it talks to you? And are there special ways to understand what it says? These are some of the questions we will answer together.

The course will not be bound by century or culture. We will hone our skills on poems (in English) by Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Dickinson, Baudelaire, Eliot, Auden, and Plath, among others. But a section of each class will be set aside for students to circulate their own choices for general discussion. There’s nothing to buy. Just bring an open mind and your love of language.

Nicholas Jenkins, Associate Professor of English, Stanford

Nicholas Jenkins studies modern poetry. He is also the primary investigator for Kindred Britain, described by The Economist as “an amazing digital humanities website that traces relations between 30,000 British people.” He has contributed to The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. Jenkins is the literary executor of the ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein.

Textbooks for this course:

No required textbooks