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Poetry Boot Camp - ENG00097H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. James Williams
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

I don’t know but I’ve been told

Terza rima’s mighty old

Right then, you ’orrible lot. If you like poetry, but your understanding of how it works needs building up, this module is for you. You will undergo a rigorous training in poetic form, starting with prosody (rhythm and metre), progressing through diction, ambiguity, syntax, stanza and poem shapes, argument, genre and more. Week by week you will encounter samples of poetry, grouped to throw light on different aspects of poetics, and you will learn how to identify and describe them accurately. Lectures will introduce you to important critical and formal concepts, and essential background reading will expand your understanding of methodologies and strategies for close reading and analysis.

What makes this module different, however, is that seminar time will be dedicated 100% to practical criticism: that means that each week you will receive new, unseen, anonymized samples of poetry and you will analyse them formally as a group, under my guidance. We will not be discussing the poems’ broader historical background or authorship, and will touch on matters of identity, politics, etc. only as far as they are raised by questions of poetic technique (which may be more than you think). The objection that poetry is fuzzy, vague, and subjective will not be tolerated, and our discussions will be none of those things.

You will build up the knowledge and the requisite mental muscle to describe and analyse poetry clearly, confidently, and with technical precision. This module is your opportunity to get on top of all the difficult stuff about poetry you’ve been hazy on up to now. It’s a tough course, but you’ll come out at the end with a real and informed understanding of this beautiful and complex art form.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

This module aims to supply a technical knowledge of poetic form that you may have found lacking, or imperfect, up to now. It provides a training in close reading skills for poetry, and offers a chance to do unhurried, careful, formal analysis of a wide range of unseen texts. The module will give you real substantive knowledge of the formal techniques of poetry, as well as a training in careful, critical,  detail-oriented textual analysis which is a great transferable skill.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the concepts and terminology of poetics, prosody, and form.
  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with analysing poems as well as gaining close reading skills.
  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with the analysis of poetry.
  4. Produce informed arguments and rigorously-evidenced ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

Module content

Seminars will be taken up with practical criticism of poems, rather than discussion of reading done during the week. To make sure you are busy during the week short homework assignments will be given (formal exercises, writing tasks, short tests). However, in order to shore up the content of the lectures, as well as to provide fruitful methodological examples, there will be quite substantial further reading


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in the term in which the module is taught (usually in the week 7 seminar).  Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 9 seminar).  Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.  All students will have the opportunity to give an in-class individual presentation during a seminar in weeks 2-9.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Sample texts may include, but will not be limited to, all or parts of the following:

  • Derek Attridge, The Rhythms of English Poetry; Poetic Form: An Introduction
  • Karin Barber, The Anthropology of Texts, Persons, and Publics
  • Jonathan Culler, The Lyric
  • Donald Davie, Purity of Diction in English Verse; Articulate Energy
  • William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity; Argufying
  • Angela Leighton, On Form
  • Caroline Levine, Forms
  • James Longenbach, The Art of the Poetic Line, The Resistance to Poetry
  • Christopher Ricks, The Force of Poetry
  • The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.