Reading Traditional Poetry, East and West
This course is designed to test the possibility of teaching traditional poems in a way that will make them relishable to the 21st-century reader of English, after some intellectual effort on the latter's part for sure. Our agenda is to read a rich selection of the best known poems from two of the world's greatest literary traditions, Chinese and English. Considerations of manageability and balance will confine our efforts to the exploration of the fruit of two memorable poetic friendships, that between Li Po and Tu Fu, both master-poets from eighth-century China, and that between Wordsworth and Coleridge, two of the domineering figures of British Romanticism. In grappling with individual poems (arranged by poet) over the course of the quarter, we will also be concerned about some of the theoretical questions bedeviling modern poetry criticism, especially those about the nature, form, and meaning of poetry. The reading load is not heavy (10-15 pages per day), but quite intense. You always need to read carefully, with your full intelligence engaged. Anyone interested in poetry is welcome, but some prior experiences with poetry will definitely smooth the path into the course.