In addition to keeping up with the reading and participating in each class, you will be expected to complete a number of assignments throughout the semester. Note: late work will not be accepted, except under highly mitigating circumstances. While you will get more information on each assignment as it comes up, here is a brief overview:
Beginning the week of September 13th, each student will be required to post 250 to 300-word blog entry to the class blog no later than 5pm on Sunday. In each entry, students will identify a particular moment from the week’s assigned reading that stopped them in their tracks, and reflect—in as precise terms as possible—on what made the particular passage a difficult one. Students should also offer some suggestions on how the passage might be approached, although finding a “solution” to the problem will not be necessary. I will use the blog posts as guideposts for class discussion, so students are encouraged to read each other’s posts in advance of class. The posts will be graded on a ✔-/✔/✔+ scale, an emphasis on regular completion of the assignment determining the overall grade.
Beginning on September 16th, each class will begin with a five-minute student presentation, followed by five minutes of class discussion led by the student presenter. Each student enrolled in the course will be required to complete one presentation over the course of the semester. In the presentation, the student will bring in a poem or passage from his or her chosen contemporary collection, and identity a particular moment or point of difficulty in the text. The student will walk the class through what, precisely, makes the passage or poem a difficult one, and the ways in which the student has tackled the problem thus far. In the discussion, the rest of the class will offer their own take on the difficult aspect of the text, and provide suggestions for how the student might continue to work through the problem. One week after presenting, the presenter will turn in a one-to-two page summary of his or her presentation as well as a 500-word reflection on the process of composing the presentation and the class feedback received. My evaluation of the presentation will be based on these documents, as well as the presentation itself.
To better understand the mechanics and effects of poetic forms, students will complete one “translation” of a poem from one form into another, or a piece of found prose into a poetic form. The translation will be at least 10 lines long, and be accompanied by a 500-word reflection on the thought process behind the translation. Seeing as this is not a creative writing class, my evaluation will be guided by the careful thought and attention to the translation process demonstrated in the reflective piece.
Using the exhaustively annotated edition of Hart Crane’s The Bridge as a model, each student will perform a similar annotation of a poem from his or her chosen contemporary collection. In addition to annotating the poem, students will submit a 500-word reflective piece indicating why the particular poem was a good candidate for such annotative attention, and what new insights about the poem or the poet’s work more generally were generated by the assignment.
Using the annotation assignment as a point of departure, students will compose a 2-3 page close reading of the poem analyzed in the previous exercise. Rather than focus on making a particular argument about the poem, the emphasis of this assignment will be on unfolding the various interpretive problems presented by the text, attending to matters of form, style, historical context, intertextuality, and obliquity. The key here is not to resolve any of the text’s difficulties, but to bring them to light in as thorough a manner as possible.
In this final written assignment, students will build on their previous written work to develop a sustained, thesis-driven argument about their contemporary poetry collection. The emphasis here will be not only on how a given poem works, but how a book of poems work together to create patterns, develop particular themes and effects, and advance a particular aesthetic, voice, or sensibility.
Please turn in all written assignments in class as a hard copy the day they are due and in electronic form via email.
A Note on Participation: I realize that participating in class discussion can be more difficult for some students than others. As such, in addition to building in opportunities for more structured (and, hopefully, less stressful) participation in class, I will also evaluate participation based on online responses to the blog posts of your peers. If you are concerned about your participation grade at any time, please feel free to discuss it with me during my office hour or by appointment.
Weekly Blog Posts 10%
Student Presentations 10%
Translation Assignment 10%
Annotation Assignment 15%
Close Reading 15%
Argumentative Essay 25%