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Philosophy of Poetry - PHI00096M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Peter Lamarque
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

The module will explore some fundamental philosophical issues about the nature and values of poetry from different periods and in different forms, largely from the perspective of analytic philosophy. The philosophy of poetry is a relatively new branch of analytic aesthetics arising out of the more established and broader philosophy of literature.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module is designed (i) to engage in detail with philosophical debates about the nature and values of poetry; (ii) to reflect in depth on individual poems that illustrate (or raise problems for) some of the issues that interest philosophers, and (iii) to enhance both philosophical and literary skills of close reading and textual analysis. The topics to be explored will include some or all of the following: meaning and paraphrase in poetry, form-content unity, poetic truth, expressiveness, poetry and abstract thought, private language, the experience of poetry, emotion, authors and authority, sincerity, bad poetry. Students will be encouraged to seek out poems themselves that they think might contribute to the philosophical debates. The module will also be an opportunity for students to reflect more broadly on the role of poetry within the arts in general and within a culture.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should be able to engage philosophical debates in the philosophy of poetry in an intelligent and informed way, making contributions of their own and exhibiting a deeper understanding of the core ideas that have arisen in this area.

By the end of the module, students will have developed better skills of close reading, both of philosophical and literary critical texts, and also of works within the poetic tradition. Students will show the ability to work independently and self-critically on an extended essay on a topic that spans both the philosophical and the literary.


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

A formative essay plan will be submitted on Monday, Week 9 of Spring Term.

The summative essay will be submitted on Monday Week 2 of the Summer Term, or on Tuesday in the event of a Bank Holiday.


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive feedback on the formative essay plan before the end of the Spring Term.

Students will received feedback on the summative essay four weeks after its submission.

Indicative reading

  • Peter Lamarque, The Philosophy of Literature, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

  • Peter Lamarque, ‘Poetry’, The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, ed. B. Gaut & D. Lopes, Routledge, 3rd edition, 2013, pp. 532-42.

  • John Gibson, ed., The Philosophy of Poetry, Oxford University Press, 2015.

  • P A French, H K Wettstein, & E Lepore, eds. Philosophy of Poetry. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, vol. 33 (2009).

  • Terry Eagleton, How to Read a Poem, Blackwell, 2007.

  • Derek Attridge & Henry Staten, The Craft of Poetry: Dialogues on minimal interpretation, Routledge, 2015.

  • Ruth Padel, 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem, Vintage Books, 2004.

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.