ELCS6070 - The Poet in Society
Value: 0.5 course units
Tutor: Dr Erin Goeres
Teaching structure: Classes will take the form of seminar-style discussions, with two weeks devoted to each of the five roles outlined below.
Assessment: 2 assessed essays of 2000 words each.
Poets can occupy countless roles in the societies in which they live and work. They can act as entertainers or storytellers. They can become guardians of memory and wisdom, or dispense satire and mockery. They can challenge social injustice or uphold the status quo. Poets have emerged in almost every human society, and the works they produce lie at the heart of the cultures we study.
This module will bring together verse from a variety of times and places to examine how poets engage with their many roles. We will focus on five roles poets can play in society: that of parent, teacher, lover, prisoner and performer. We will ask how poets portray these different roles, and how the experience of being a poet informs their relationship with the wider community. A selection of key critical readings will be examined alongside these poems which, over the course of the term, will familiarize students with theoretical approaches to the concept of poetic subjectivity. We will ask how poetic subjectivity is constructed in these texts, and how poets use their subjective, individual experience to explore the societies around them.
Poems will be drawn from the classical, medieval and modern eras, and from a variety of European languages. Comparisons across these period and linguistic boundaries will be encouraged throughout the term. Due to the diversity of sources, a module-pack will be supplied online. All texts will be provided in the original language and with English translations; students will not be at a disadvantage if they are unfamiliar with any of the languages. Primary texts are listed below in the order of reading.
Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:
- ‘Sonatorrek’ in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection (Egil’s saga), trans. Bernard Scudder (London: Penguin, 2000)
- Marie de France: Fables, ed. and trans. Harriet Spiegel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994)
- Walter Crane, The Baby’s Own Æsop (London: Frederick Warne, 1887)
- The Poems of Catullus, ed. and trans. Peter Green (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005)
- Troubadour Lyrics: A Bilingual Anthology, ed. and trans. Frede Jensen (New York: Peter Lang, 1998)
- ‘Ballades’ in Fortunes Stabilnes, ed. Mary-Jo Arn (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1994) and in Poetry of Charles d’Orléans and his Circle, ed. Mary-Jo Arn and John Fox, trans. R. Barton Palmer (Tempe, AZ: ACMRS, 2010).
- Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After, trans. Rosette C. Lamont (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995)
- The Kalevala, trans. Keith Bosley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989)
- Tomas Tranströmer, New Collected Poems, trans. Robin Fulton (Highgreen: Bloodaxe Books, 2011)
Initial secondary bibliography
- Linda Marie Brooks, ed. Alternative Identities: The Self in Literature, History, Theory (New York, 1995).
- Michel Foucault. ‘The Subject and Power’. Critical Inquiry 8.4 (1982), 777-95.
- Anthony Low. Aspects of Subjectivity: Society and Individuality from the Middle Ages to Shakespeare and Milton (Pittsburgh, PA, 2003).