Modern Poetry And The Place Of Writing
King's College London
Area of Study
Creative Writing, English, Poetry
Taught In English
Course Level Recommendations
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Recommended U.S. Semester Credits4
Recommended U.S. Quarter Units6
Hours & Credits
OverviewThis module explores the idea that just as English painting is renowned for its representation of landscape, poetry in Britain and Ireland has been shaped by the nature of place. The module is intended to introduce students to the variety of twentieth-century poetry from the standpoint of its complex engagement with place. We will examine topics such as poetry and landscape; poetry, the country and the city; poetry and the idea of England (the ?spiritual, the Platonic, old England,? as Coleridge called it); insularity and post-imperial retrenchment; travel and the foreign; and what Seamus Heaney has called ?the place of writing.? The focus on the question and representation of place also provides a way of grounding and negotiating work that can sometimes seem (as in the case of major contemporary English poets like Geoffrey Hill and J. H. Prynne) extremely challenging. Place gives us a point of access to the poetry, but it also proves to be a central concern, one way or another, of all the poets on the course. The dynamics of William Wordsworth?s relationship to place becomes a founding moment for several poets (Auden, Bunting, Heaney, J. H. Prynne) and we shall be looking at their dialogue with Wordsworth. Sylvia Plath?s poetry begins to look very different if we start not from her suicide but from her responsiveness to place. Poets such as W. S. Graham have engaged not only with particular landscapes, in Graham?s case Penwith in Cornwall, but particular painters (the St. Ives School)?and where possible we shall examine painting and poetry together, including making use of the collection of modern British painting at Tate Britain, a visit to the galleries of which will be the basis for the formative, unassessed exercise.The module is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of twentieth-century British and Irish poetry, and we may only mention in passing such key figures as Thomas Hardy, Geoffrey Hill, W. B. Yeats, Edward Thomas, Dylan Thomas, R. S. Thomas, Donald Davie, Hugh MacDiarmid and Roy Fisher. The course aims to leave room for consideration of some more experimental writers alongside the mainstream.An introductory Course Reader will be available containing a short selection of critical and theoretical essays intended to illustrate different ways of thinking about place and/or poetry and place.Preliminary ReadingIn addition to dipping into the work of the poets mentioned above, the following books can be recommended as excellent preliminary reading: Yi-Fu Tuan?s Space and Place (1977; 2011), which is probably the most easily accessible and generally useful; Gaston Bachelard?s Poetics of Space, which focusses on French poetry but explores several of the ideas we?ll be thinking about; and Doreen Massey?s for space (2005), which is more wide-ranging and theoretical and also more alive to the politics of place. There are sample chapters from each in the Course Reader.
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