History of English Poetry Course
Susanna Hislop leads a six week course
This is a six-week whistle stop tour through the story of English poetry, taking you from the medieval to the modern, via the epic, the lyric, the sonnet and the ode.
The sessions will take a chronological approach, but will also make connections with modern poetry: joining the dots between Shakespeare and Shelley, Pope and Plath, we will consider how the debates underlying the purpose and nature of poetry have developed through the centuries.
Each week we will read poetry closely, appreciating the beautiful muscularity of English verse, whilst also thinking about poetry in its wider historical and artistic contexts. Find your feet (your trochees, your iambs, your dactyls) as you learn your chiasmus from your caesura, and rediscover the joys of poetry.
WEEK 1 – Wednesday 16th January: The English epic
How did the story of English poetry begin? How did English poetry re-emerge from its Anglo-Saxon roots, shaking off the French and Latin of the Norman Conquest? And how did Chaucer, Spenser and Milton try to be the Homers or Virgils of their day?
WEEK 2 – Wednesday 23rd January: The Sonnet
How did the sonnet make its way to England via Petrarch? And how did the Renaissance breathe new life into English poetry? We will discover how Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella started a sonnet craze that hit the last decade of Elizabeth I’s rule; how Shakespeare jumped on the bandwagon; and how the sonnet was later re-imagined by Milton, the Romantics and the moderns.
WEEK 3 – Wednesday 30th January: Donne and the Metaphysical
The Metaphysical poets’ virtuosic experiments in verse and form challenged English poetry. Trying to unpack their wit, we will see how they used metaphysical conceit to struggle with the conflicts of the soul. We will look in particular at Donne – a poet with a complicated reputation, only fully restored by T.S. Eliot in the early twentieth century.
WEEK 4 – Wednesday 6th February: Keats, Shelley and the Romantic Vision
Why did the Romantics seek a new vision? How did they revisit old concerns – the pastoral, the classical – whilst rebelling against the age of scepticism and satire (of Pope, Dryden and Swift) that they escaped from? How can they be said to have created the Individual, and paved the way for modern poetry?
WEEK 5 – Wednesday 13th February: Love and Death in the Victorian era
Looking at several poems of marriage and death by Browning, Tennyson, Hardy and others, we will explore how love and death captured the Victorian imagination. We will think about Victorian experiments in style, in particular, the dramatic monologue, and discover an age gripped by misogyny, mourning and melancholia.
WEEK 6 – Wednesday 20th February: T.S. Eliot and the Fragmented Self
Reading T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ we will consider the modern aesthetic, and the way in which the self is explored in twentieth century poetry. How have poets responded to the fragmentation of identity in the modern era? And, coming to the end of our whistle-stop tour, we will ask: where were all the women poets?
|Place||The Idler Academy, 81 Westbourne Park Road, London W2 5QH|
|Dates||Wednesday 16th January to Wednesday 20th February|
|Time||7.00pm - 8:30pm|
|Class Size||Maximum of 12|
|To Book||Add to basket or call 0207 221 5908|
|Benefits||Idler exercise book & pencil / glass of Sfuso wine|