English | Seminar: Literary Form, Mode, and Theme
L460 | 28046 | Shannon Gayk

L460 Seminar: Literary Form, Mode, and Theme
Shannon Gayk

28046 - 11:15a-12:05p MWF (20 students) 3 cr.

TOPIC:  "The Poetics of Nature"

In one of his most famous poems, Gerald Manley Hopkins comments
that, despite wearing “man’s smudge,” “nature is never spent; /
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”  This seminar
will examine how poets, including Hopkins, represent the natural
world and the human relation to and imprint on that world.
More generally, the goal of this seminar is sustained reading and
discussion of lyrics about nature.  Over the course of the semester,
we will survey the place of nature in poetry from classical verse to
contemporary lyrics.  In so doing, we will examine major literary
genres and movements, such as the pastoral and romanticism.  As we
survey this poetic corpus, we will consider how the representation
of nature has changed and how it has stayed the same.  Together, we
will ask: How do poets represent the relations between humans and
the natural world? Between nature and civilization? Between nature
and industrialization? How do poetic engagements with the natural
world represent wildness and cultivation? How do the discourses of
natural science affect literary representation?  How might nature
lyrics be read within larger social or political contexts?  What
sort of ethical stances do nature lyrics take? We will also discuss
how ecocriticitical studies and contemporary environmentalism might
affect our readings of these poems.
Course texts will likely include an anthology of nature poetry,
Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballades, and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker
Creek; we will also read several scholarly essays on our course
topic. Since this is a seminar, class sessions will be focused
almost primarily on discussion, and thus regular attendance,
thorough preparation, and engaged participation will be necessary to
students’ success in the class.  Students should also expect a few
out-of-class excursions. Course requirements include short entries
in a reading journal, two presentations, a researched project, and
occasional creative assignments and in-class writing.